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ETHICAL AND RELIGIOUS CLASSICS
OF EAST AND WEST
THE PHILOSOPHY OF IBN 'ARABI
ETHICAL AND RELIGIOUS CLASSICS
OF EAST AND WEST
i. Reynold A. Nicholson: RUM!: POET AND MYSTIC
2. A. J. Arberry: SUFISM
3. Arthur Waley: THE POETRY AND CAREER OF LI PO
4. George Kqftal: SAINT FRANCIS IN ITALIAN PAINTING
5. E. Allison Peers: THE MYSTICS OF SPAIN
6. Dastur Bode and Piloo Nanavutty : SONGS OF ZARATHUSTRA
7, Emmy Welles z: AKBAR'S RELIGIOUS THOUGHT
8. W. Montgomery Watt: THE FAITH AND PRACTICE OF AL-GHAZALI
9. A. J. Arberry: THE HOLY KORAN
10. A. H. Armstrong: PLOTINUS
n. Israel Mattuck: THE THOUGHT OF THE PROPHETS
12. Leon Roth: GOD AND MAN IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
13. Edward Conze: BUDDHIST MEDITATION
14. R. C. Zachner: THE TEACHINGS OF THE MAGI
15. D. M. Lang: LIVES AND LEGENDS OF THE GEORGIAN SAINTS
1 6. Kaizuka: CONFUCIUS
17. F. H. Billiard: THE BUDDHA, THE PROPHET AND THE CHRIST
1 8. W. G. Archer: THE LOVES OF KRISHNA
19. Kdtib Chelebi: THE BALANCE OF TRUTH
20. D. M. Lang: THE WISDOM OF BALAHVAR
21. F. Rahman: PROPHECY IN ISLAM
THE PHILOSOPHY OF
GEORGE ALLEN & UNWIN LTD
MUSEUM STREET LONDON
First published in 1959
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Apart from any fair dealing for the purposes of
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permitted under the Copyright Act, 1956, no
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Printed in Great Britain
in 1 1 on 12 pt. BaskeniUe type
by C. Tinline & Co. Ltd.
Liverpool, London and Prescot.
Ibn 'Arabi is possibly the most significant thinker of
Islam. Yet he is far less widely known in the Western
world than Ibn Sina, Al-Ghazall, Ibn Rushd or even
Al-Farabi. By and large, the legend of his pantheism
and his obscurity persists in a world little aware of what
he actually wrote and taught. The late R. A. Nicholson
and Dr. A. E. Affifi are the English-speaking world's
chief contribution to Ibn * Arab! studies. The present
essay attempts to fill, however inadequately, the gap
that remains. It touches only upon some of the main
ideas in Ibn 'Arabi's vast and complex system, and
ignores innumerable other aspects. Apart from my own
interpretations and illustrations of some of Ibn 'Arabi's
puzzling ideas, I do not claim any special originality for
this study. I hope, nevertheless, that even so concise
an introduction to him might offer some notion of his
philosophy, and induce the reader to seek out the orig-
inal sources. For the sake of those unable to read Ibn
*ArabI in the original, I have included a number 'of
his texts in English.
Apart from Ibn c Arabi's own writings, especially the
Fusus and the Futuhdt, the chief authorities on whom I
have based my text are Miguel Asin y Palacios, R, A.
Nicholson, and, especially, Dr. Affifi, whose book,
The Mystical Philosophy of Myhyid Din-Ibnul 'Arabi
(Cambridge University Press, 1939) might well claim
to be the clearest survey in English of a difficult but
Professor of Islamic* ,
North African Studies,
College of the Pacific,
I wish to express my gratitude to the following
publishers for giving me permission to use translations
of Ibn 'Arab! texts : the University Press Cambridge
(Studies in Islamic Mysticism, by Reynold Alleyne
Nicholson, publ. 1921), the Royal Asiatic Society,
London (Tarjumdnu 'l-Ashwdq, by Reynold A.
Nicholson, publ. 1911), and Messrs Luzac & Co.
London (Readings from the Mystics of Islam, publ.
1950). I also have to thank the Editors of The Muslim
World, Hartford Seminary Foundation, Hartford,
Conn, for allowing me to use material contained in
my The Philosophy of Ibn *Arabi, published in January
and April 1957 in their Quarterly.
I The Life of Ibn *Arabi 15
II Ibn * Arabi and Islamic Philosophy 17
III The Nature of Ibn * Arab? s Doctrine 22
IV Themes on Ibn * Arabfs Philosophy 27
V Ibn 'Arabfs Texts 67
A Selection from Tarjumdnu al-Ashwdq 91
THE LIFE OF IBN 'ARABl
Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn c All Muhyi al-Din al-Hatimi
al Andalus!, commonly known as Ibn 'Arab! (or
Ibnul e Arabi), came from a pious family in which Sufi
interests were a tradition. His ancestors belonged to the
Arab tribe of Tayy. At some time or another they moved
from the Middle East to Southern Spain which, from
the beginning of the 8th century, had been ruled by
Arabian princes. By A.D. 1164, when Ibn 'Arab! was
born in Murcia, in South-Eastern Spain, Muslim
dominance in the Iberian peninsula had passed its peak
and, indeed, was declining towards extinction. But
Spanish intellectual life was still illumined by the after-
glow of Moorish civilization. During the preceding
three centuries, the intellectual zest and material
splendour of Cordova and Seville surpassed those of
Paris and possibly even of Constantinople. The Muslims
of Spain had transmitted to Europe much of the wisdom
of the Greeks; and with their co-religionists in Syria,
Persia and Iraq had produced a corpus of philosophical
and scientific knowledge that was to leave a deeper
imprint upon European civilization than any other
foreign culture, before or since.
At the beginning of the I2th century, an Arab youth
in Andalusia had practically the whole of the then
available knowledge spread before him in the schools
and libraries of Southern Spain. Zoroastrian and
Manichaean lore, Hebrew and Christian theology,
Greek philosophy and mathematics, and every kind of
Muslim intellectual achievement were by then for-
mulated in manuscript, and there was no dearth of
scholars to expound. It seems that Ibn ' Arabi, with his
exceptional spiritual curiosity grasped every oppor-
tunity to profit from all available sources. At the age of
eight he was in Lisbon where he received the rudiments
of Muslim orthodox education. Besides learning the
Qur'an, he studied the principles of Islamic law. A few
years later we find him in Seville, since 1 1 70 the capital
of the Moorish Empire of the Almohades. He remained
there for some thirty years, continually employed in the
study of the various branches of Islamic learning.
During that time he also travelled extensively in both
Spain and Morocco, and, in 1201, decided to make the
pilgrimage to Mecca. He may have sought thus to
escape from the simmering political upheavals in Spain
and from the vigilant eyes of the learned ulema, who
would look askance at a Sufi scholar of distinctly un-
orthodox views. In the East, he visited not only Mecca,
where he lived and taught for a while, but also Syria, Iraq
and Asia Minor. By that time, his saintly life and his
impressive record as a teacher and thinker had earned him
great renown. Wherever he went, gifts were bestowed
upon him, which later he passed on to the poor.
It was during his sojourn in Mecca and Damascus
that Ibn 'Arabi wrote most of his books, especially the
fundamental Fususu 'l-Hikam, known in English as either
Gems of Philosophy or The Bezels of Divine Wisdom, and Al
Futuhdt al-Makkiyyah (Meccan Revelations). We have no
exact knowledge of the number of books he wrote. He
himself mentions almost three hundred. These comprise
theology, mysticism, biography, philosophy, Quranic
commentaries, and poetry. Ibn 'Arab! died in 1240 in
Damascus, where his grave can be seen to the present
IBN 'ARABI AND ISLAMIC PHILOSOPHY
THE central problem facing the Muslim philosophers
was how to reconcile a God of absolute unity and
perfection with the creation of a multiple universe full
of imperfections. If God's will was responsible for the
creation of the world, then we are confronted with the
problem of the duality of God and His will. The same
problem arises in regard to Divine mercy, charity,
justice and the other attributes of God. Then there was
the problem how the postulate of God's unity could
be preserved in view of the fact that some 'part* of Him
became the universe. Prior to the creation of the latter
there was nothing beside God. So obviously the universe
must be a 'fragment' of God's being, taken out of
eternity and placed into time. Since God is eternal and
spiritual, He must be beyond time, space and matter.
Yet what distinguishes His universe from Himself is
precisely its material existence in time and space.
Whence did these come, with all their multiplicity and
These problems had worried not merely the Muslim
philosophers but also their antecedents and masters,
the Greeks, from Aristotle down to Philo, Plotinus and
Origen. Though the Muslims accepted many of the
Aristotelian and Neo-platonic postulates, they did not
develop them merely as Muslim interpretations. Each
thinker attempted clarification in his own individual
way. Hardly any two of them re-expressed the doctrine
of the Nous or of the Logos in identical manner, each
seeking a formula that would, to his mind, satisfy the
demands of logic and yet not contravene the doctrines
of the Qur'an. Their interpretations ranged from the
rationalism of the Mu'tazilah to the intellectual sterility
of the Ash'arites; from unredeemed anthropomor-
phism to the complex doctrine of world spirits as postu-
lated by Ibn Sina; from Al-Farabi's veneration of
Aristotelian mathematics and astronomy to Al-Ghazali's
revolt against both the Greeks and philosophy sui generis.
Some of the schemes devised by the Muslim philoso-
phers are eminently satisfying to the demands of logic.
They have the beauty of true works of art. By inter-
posing an active 'agent' between God and His creation
whether called Universal Reason or First Cause,
Logos or Universal Spirit they relieved God of all
responsibility for the existence of such troublesome
entities as time, space, multiplicity, and so on. But when,
at the beginning of the I2th century, Al-Ghazali wrote
his Tahdfut al-Falasifah he showed that his predecessors,
despite the apparent impeccability of their reasoning,
had shirked the central issue. Their solutions had been
essentially linguistic ones. By substituting the term
Divine 'knowledge' for Divine 'will', and the Neo-
platonic 'necessity' for 'creation', they imagined them-
selves to have overcome all the difficulties. They had
made the universe finite in space and infinite in dura-
tion; they had limited God (or, rather, the First Cause)
to dealing only with universals and not with particulars;
they had attributed to everything an eternal potential
existence (in the mind of God) and had thus eliminated
the 'possibility' of anything new being created by God,
for such new creation would have removed God from
eternity and placed Him in time. Not so, insisted Al-
Ghazall, opposing such mental acrobatics. Even God's
thinking must be the outcome of His will. Since He
knows everything He must be concerned not only with
universals but also with particulars. How, he challenged
his predecessors, could we conceive of a finite space and
an infinite time ? Does not infinite time presuppose also
infinite space? R not space related to body, and time to
the body's movement? And, Al-Ghazall, a more
orthodox Muslim than they, protested that not only the
soul, as the philosophers said, but also the body is
immortal. Though the great Ibn Rushd wrote his
scathing Tahdfut al-Tahafut against Al-Ghazali, and
used every weapon of Aristotelian logic against him,
he did not really invalidate Al-Ghazali's arguments.
But the verbal ingenuities he employed proved suffi-
ciently persuasive to influence Western scholastics for
The Muslim philosophers accomplished their tasks
efficiently. Their efforts compare by no means un-
favourably with those of some of their great successors,
such as Descartes, Kant or Leibniz. Kant's Das Ding an
sich added little to the shay* (thing) of the Muslims; and
the monad of Leibniz can hardly claim superiority over
its cousin, the atom of Muslim atomists. It must, how-
ever, be conceded that the Muslim philosophers failed to
resolve the fundamental conflict between the Qur'an
and its rational justification, just as the Western schol-
astics failed to solve the corresponding conflict in the
Christian doctrine. The fault^ however, was not theirs.
It was inherent in the conflict itself. The fundamental
truths of the Qur'an, in common with those of all
genuine religions, are spiritual truths. Their postulates
and their 'logic' must needs differ from those that have
formed the basis of Western philosophical (and
scientific) pursuits ever since Aristotle. It may be that
the truths of science and of rationalism in general pose
no insoluble riddles to Aristotelian logic, though it
would appear that modern atomic science and mathe-
matics are beginning to find them insufficient. In
dealing, however, with dimensions of truth in which
matter (and substance) are not the one and all, we find
that particular logic of little assistance. Whether we
accept or dismiss the truths of mysticism, we all agree
that those truths cannot be 'proved' by a logic derived
essentially from Aristotle. Such logic bases itself on a
quantitative universe in which substance, whether in
the sense of materiaprima or materia secunda is the decisive
reality of existence. By disregarding quality which it
attempts to define in terms of quantity it takes little
heed of essence. The underlying forces behind the
universe the instruments of the First Cause, or God, or
whatever we wish to call it are, however, timeless and
spaceless essence. Quantity does not enter therein,
even though it may become a vehicle. Thus, in trying to
explain essence in terms of substance the common
technique of most Western philosophy we attempt to
explain one dimension by another one.
The problems awaiting solution by the Muslim
philosophers were beyond the power of the Aristotelian
logic that most of them accepted. Evidently a less
circumscribed, a more 'spiritual', instrument was
needed. The mystics alone appear to have possessed
such an instrument, which we might describe as vision
a direct awareness of Reality, unencumbered by
intellectual interference. Though it might not be im-
possible to arrive at similar truths by intellectual means,
such findings will be only accidental, and they will have
been gained at second hand. While they reach us after
having been distilled through, or reflected in, our
intellect, the truths obtained by direct vision are an
immediate and spontaneous experience. We might
liken them to light reaching us direct from the sun as
compared with light depicted in an artist's painting.
(Since the great artist, somewhat like the mystic, sees
truth directly, his representation of truth will be more
concrete than that of the scientist.)
THE NATURE OF IBN 'ARABl'S DOCTRINE
THE truths expressed in the philosophy of Ibn 'Arab!
are those of a seer and a mystic, not of a philosopher,
even though he did his best to explain them through a
philosophical system. His uniqueness derives precisely
from the fact that he was both a seer who often saw
more clearly and more deeply even than other mystics
and at the same time possessed the equipment of a
philosopher, however unorthodox and even fantastic
that equipment appears at times to have been.
Though the core of his doctrine and many of its
details are Ibn 'Arabi's own, his vast reading and his
catholicity enabled him to utilize innumerable extran-
eous sources. Of the purely native, or Spanish sources,
most prominent were those of the Sufis of Al-Meria,
whose doctrines spread through most of Muslim Spain.
In his book on our philosopher, however, Dr A. E.
Affifi shows that the influence of the Spanish Sufi, Ibn
Masarra, and his schools, affected Ibn 'Arab! far less
than was assumed by the great Spanish expert, Miguel
Asin y Palacios. The Qur'an and Hadith form the chief
basis upon which Ibn * Arab! builds his doctrine. That
he would be influenced by his pantheistic predecessor,
the martyred Al-IJallaj, goes without saying. The same
is true of several Eastern Sufis with whose work Ibn
' Arabi became acquainted during his stay in the Middle
East. Coming after most of the founders of Islamic
scholasticism, he naturally derived a great deal from the
Ash'arites, the Mu'tazilah, the Carmathians and the
Ikhw&n al-Safa, the earliest Muslim encyclopaedists
Aristotle, in the Neo-platonic garb provided for him by
the Muslim philosophers, left profound traces in Ibn
'Arabi's system. So did the Hellenistic schools of
Plotinus and the Stoics. Scholars have also detected
Zoroastrian and Manichaean influences. Yet, whatever
his source, he seldom failed to assimilate it so completely
as to make it appear to originate in his own mind. This
is particularly true of the use he makes of the Qur'an
which he interprets in any way that happens to suit his
peculiarly uncompromising system.
Ibn 'Arabi's philosophy is usually described as
pantheistic. Pantheism however, as commonly under-
stood, is little more than an ennobled form of material-
ism. Only in recent years have scholars begun to call
Ibn 'Arab! a monist. Yet the term monism, as applied
to him, seems not sufficiently qualitative to provide an
adequate label for the great Murcian's theosophy. The
term that might possibly suit his doctrine best is non-
dualism, a term that implies not merely its monistic
character but also its complete overcoming of all
dualistic conceptions. He is, indeed, the sole Muslim
thinker who, while accepting the uncompromising
monotheism of the Qur'an, succeeded in providing that
gospel with a philosophical interpretation that resolves
the innumerable problems of duality as implied by the
seemingly mutually contradictory statements of Islam's
If it can be said that one single consideration pre-
occupied Ibn 'Arab! more than any other it was the
necessity for proving the non-duality of everything
concerning God and His universe. A purely monistic
answer to the problems of the apparent duality of a
perfect God and an imperfect universe, of active and
passive, of good and evil, of Divine omnipotence and
human free will, would not have sufficed. It had to be
shown unmistakably that there was no room for any
duality whatsoever within and between the various
elements. If any Western philosopher, rooted in a
Semitic Weltanschauung, succeeded in providing such a
non-dualistic philosophy, it was Ibn e ArabL He may
often strain our patience almost beyond endurance; he
may tax our powers of comprehension more severely
than a,ny other philosopher, Western or Eastern; his
apparent ambiguities and contradictions may drive us
wellnigh to despair. But finally our patience is richly
rewarded, A splendid system of perfect non-dualism
rises before us, and innumerable questions that other
Western systems leave only partially explained receive
answers equally satisfying from a philosophical and a
religious point of view.
The difficulties which Ibn 'Arab! presents to the
student lie not so much in the doctrine itself as in his
style and method of reasoning. Some of these complexi-
ties are deliberate; others derive from his peculiar type
of mind. Conscious of the dangers threatening an un-
orthodox thinker setting his views against those of
theologians representing authority, Ibn 'Arab! delibera-
tely complicated his style. He would try to make an
outrageously heterodox piece of argumentation look
irreproachable by expressing it in the language or
imagery of orthodoxy. An original but not a systematic
philosopher, he did not hesitate to use the same term to
denote a number of different ideas, or to use identical
terms to describe ideas that were not only not identical
but mutually contradictory. A poet as well as a philo-
sopher, he might employ a poetical diction that would
pass muster in a lyrical work but only served to make his
argument abtruse or even suggested an essential
lack of self-discipline. As no single book contains his
philosophy in toto, and his doctrine is to be extracted
laboriously from the gargantuan volumes of the
Futuhdt and the Fufiif-~not to speak of a number of less
prolix books it will be evident that the task of com-
mentators is not easy. Only a very genuine admiration
of that remarkable genius can induce a student to
wrangle with the innumerable difficulties that Ibn
* Arabi found it necessary to create.
Yet he has fascinated thinkers, theologians and poets
almost from the day his works became known.
It was inevitable that countless orthodox theologians
should be revolted by what appeared heterodox, even
scandalous in the ways in which he interpreted Qur'anic
doctrine. His views on the incarnation of God in
man (hulul) or the identification of man with* God
(ittihdd) were naturally anathema to them. For is not
the utter absence of such an incarnation one of Islam's
fundamental postulates, one that distinguishes it so
proudly from Christian 'polytheism 5 ? The learned
ulema, of course, did not perceive that Ibn 'Arabl's
doctrine of incarnation had nothing in common with
the orthodox interpretation of the concept of incarna-
tion. Throughout the centuries, controversy over Ibn
'Arab! continued whenever his name was mentioned in
theological or philosophical gatherings. Yet even his
most ardent partisans and they were legion admitted
that mystical doctrines as profound and as blindingly
illuminating as his represented a danger to anyone but
the initiated. Nevertheless, Muslim scholars persevered
in reading his writings, and many a Sufi would copy
these if only, by so doing, he might secure the blessing
of their author. Among the better known scholars who
defended his views we find Majdu '1-Din al-Flruzabadi
(died A.D. 1414), Jalalu '1-Din al-Suyuti (d. 1445), and >
a century later, 'Abdu '1-Wahhab al-Sha'ram.
In the Western world, Dante provides one of the most
conspicuous examples of Ibn 'Arabfs pervasive
influence. Senor Asin y Palacios, the leading authority
on the subject, has proved in his remarkable studies
published in the volume Islam and the Divine Comedy
(John Murray, London, 1926) that not only were
innumerable ideas in the Divine Comedy inspired by
Ibn * Arabi, but the entire geography of heaven and hell
was taken over by Dante from Ibn 'Arab! (and other
Muslim sources). And to mention but one other Western
thinker whose work unmistakably shows Ibn 'Arabi's
influence, there is Ramon Lull, the Spanish mystic.
THEMES IN IBN 'ARABl'S PHILOSOPHY
IF Ibn 'Arab! is usually described as a pantheist, there
is ample justification in his own arguments. For while
the Qur'an declares: There- is_but one God\ Ibn
'Arabi maintains that * there is nothing but God*. His
abandonment of the Islamic conception of God as the
creator and cause of the universe, in favour of a God
who is everything, definitely suggests a step fromjnonD-
theism to pantheism. While the Prophet Muhammad
preached a God who is cause and a universe that is
effect, the majority of Muslim philosophers introduced
between God and His creation such intermediaries as
the First Cause or the Universal Spirit. Ibn 'Arabi will
have none of these intermediaries, but only l absolute
unification*. ThougET again lincf again he tries toj^con-
cil^^r sf pantheistic > jjod with the Unitarian GocL of
the Quran, fiisTjod 'Who is everything' must needs
differ greatly from the Quranic 1 God 'like unto whom
there is nothing'. His God is not one who creates or
from whom anything but Himself emanates, but a
God whojnantfests jffimself in an infinity of forms. ^
TKT^Arabi distinguishes between the finite God of
religion and the infinite Gpd^mysffcism. The God of
religion reveals Himself in various forms reflected in
the different religions. It depends upon theJcapacitY^.
qthe believer jitfhich one oFlliese forms (religions) he
accepts. The God of the mystic contains all His forms,
for the mystic's heart alone is ail-receptive. While the
God of religion manifests Himself in man as both virtue
and sin, the God of the mystic reveals^ Himself in, a
manner thatJ^oridjflitue mdjin, As we shall
discover, this is an utterly a-moral God.
That Jtoe_J^stic^God c an obviou^^Jbe
Muslim nor Christian, ffu33Elsf,~3ewish nor pagan is
expressed beautifully in IBn~TSr i ab1YTamous ode
contained in his Tarjumdr^l-Ashwag^ a collection of
mystical odes: """
'My heart is capable of every form,
A cloister for the monk, a fane for idols,
A pasture for gazelles, the pilgrim's Ka'ba,
The Tables of the Torah, the Koran.
Love is the faith I hold : wherever turn
His camels, still the one true faith is mine.' 1
Since God is the jssence of all existence, man needs
Him so that He may existTTTn the other hand, Qod
needs man, so that He may nlanifest Himself _to
Dixane^ssgnce^ for Ibn 'Arabi^is pure without ^attri-
butes. It is endowed with Attributes when it manifests
itself, either in the universe or in man (who is part of
it), for all created things are His Attributes. Viewed as
His Attributes, they are^ identical with God. When
viewed apart!* om God as they are by the rationalist
and materialist they are nothing. Since the universe
and everything within it, are God's manifested Attri-
butes their existence is relative; God's is absolute.
By knowing itself, the Divine essence knows all
things within itself. Nevertheless it distinguishes them
from itself as objects of its knowledge. This, however,
1 R. A. Nicholson's translation in his edition of Tarjumdnu 'l-Ashwdq
(Oriental Translation Fund, New Series, vol. xx, p. 19, w. 13-15).
does not imply that there is some duality between the
known object and the knowing subject. Since the
Divine essence is jhe knower^_the_known and the
lowing, thereT exists completejmity of the subject., tEe
object^ an? the lunctioiT that establishes^ a _jelalioilsEip
In conformity with the Qur'an, Ibn 'Arab! regards
the world as undergoing an eternal process of creation.
In conformity with the Ash'arites (and the atomists)
he regards that process as one of constant annihilation
and creation. Annihilation Jb.ere_ simpjy_ joea n s t* 1 a*
since an object changes from moment to moment, it
cannotTbe the same once the change has taken place.
Since it has ceased to be its old self, that self no longer
exists. In order that it might cease to exist, it must
obviously have been annihilated. Otherwise there
would be not one object but an infinite number of them,
If God exists, and if everything has its being in Him,
it follows that the universe was not created at some
moment in the distant past ever since evolving on its
own but that it manifests constantly the Divine
existence of its maker. This means that the universe is
in a perpetual state of creation. AccordiJag^toTTBii
'ArabL God does not createT anything. Creation means
-^^~Y^<~' - ^- p-~ r ~ s< ____ " "-- ___ -* '-o^- . -- ' ----
simply the coming mto^concrete manifestation of some>
God). While this doctrine is in
agreement with that of most Muslim philosophers, it is
at complete variance with the views of Al-Ghazali, who
regards every spiritual perception ancTeven sensory
experience as something entirely new, created afresfTby
jjoflMjTO^ as though out of a
Though God may will a thing to be, its existence is
made necessary by the very nature of the laws within
the thing itself. Actually, for Ibn 'Arabl* God isjthe
name for those Jaws.
TJFparticular interest is Ibn ' Arabf s discussion of the
way in which the potential existence of things (inherent
within God's essence) becomes actual existence in the
phenomenal world. This was, of course, a subject that
preoccupied most of the philosophers, and one that we
associate with Platq^s Ide^SLor the impact of a form
(eidos) uporfmatter, in Aristotle. Ibn c Arab! divides the
Divine_essence or, at least, that aspect of it that
iSamfests itself in tangible phenomena into Divine
Names and Divine Attributes. He views a Diyme Name
manifestation. We could paraphrase him by saying that
a DiyiMjName is the creative element that holds within
itself the potentiality "ora" particular phenomenon (that
might, or might not, come into tangible existence). In
other words, it is the active element within the Divine
essence out of which a given phenomenon will emerge.
A Divine Attribute, on the other hand, is a Divine
Name manifeste^TrTthe "external world? It is TTKe
phenoi^njir^oBJect, though not necessarily a material
oneTFbr, in Ibn f Arabi's doctrine, any human thought
or activity, too, has its primary beffig in the Dlvink
essence in which^ before its jexternal manifestation^ it
forms the 'apposite Divine Name. Whereas a Divine
Attribute, bemg an exteriorization of the Divine Name,
must needs be transient and represent Fhe ^passive*
element in the procedure, the Divine essence is, of
course, unchangeable^ in^stn^tible, and embracing
both its (potentially) phenomenal and non-phenomenal
aspects. Thus it is more than the Platonic Idea, which
denotes only the spiritual reality behind a phenomenon,
and which disregards the latter's concrete manifestation.
But then, for Plato, such manifestations were mere
shadows. For Ibn 'Arab!, they wgre. jiarticular aspects
Ibn 'Arabi, in his effort to make his doctrine all-
embracing, characteristically treats the same subject in
yet other terms. He speaks of Divine consciousness
which embraces all the intelligible forms of the proto-
types or ctyaU) as he calls them, and which, as we shall
see later, he identifies with the Logos, or the Spirit of
Muhammad. The Divine essence embraces all the
potential essences of the prototypes, which would seem
to be but another title for the Divine Names. Indeed
Ibn c Arabi calls them also 'latent realities' or Al-a'cydn
al-thabitah. He defines the essence^ of j:;ach of them as a
'mode' of God, and it is through that essence that God
becomes conscious of each one of thern.
(c) THE ONE AND THE MANY
It should be possible by now to divine how Ibn ' Arabi
solves the problem ^thejmltJL2fjSQd and the multi-
plicity within the universe or, to put it differently, how
he resolves the supposed duality in the relationship
between God and His creatures. Naturally, he admits
the existence of multiplicity in the world or, irTHIs own
words, of the many, khalq. But he does not admit the
reality of the many in terms of their substance as op-
posed to essence. He accepts only one Reality, Al-Haqq
(the Ana al-Haqq of ^QBHallaj). As viewed'Ey* Itself, that
is, as God viewing Himself, or when viewed by ourselves
as the essence behind all phenomena, their JReality;
indeed is^but one^ and can be nc^hin^butSne^ It can
only be regarded as many^ when jyiewed solely as
m ^^^^^L^^^^^^ G1 ^^> i' c - when viewed HGy
ourselves in an intellectual or sensory way (that is,
Ibn 'Arabi's doctrine is by no means identical with
the corresponding doctrine of Plotinus, for whom
Reality is the cause of everything. (In this Plotinus,
would be at one with orthodox Muslim doctrine.) For
Ibn 'Arabi, the One jotot the cause but the essence of
everything^ This difference in the two doctrines is
"fundamental. To be the maker of the thing I produce is
one matter; it is quite another matter to be the thing
itself or, rather, to share with it my essence. To paint the
picture of a child is not identical with giving birth to a
It should now be evident that for Ibn * Arabi multL
plicity has no spirituaj[jgality, for it Is^not due to
division witEm the One. It is due to our own individual
pomts of view. AsTiumans, we can see only fragments of
the.whole^Moreover, we~seiaDnrpenetrafe beyoiicT their
surface. Accordingto Ibn ' Arabi, the mystic alone can
multiglid^rTTcouldnbe said that, for Ibn 'Arab!, the
relationship between God and His creatures is that of an
object re^ec^riS "counfless^nurrors. These reflections
obviously cannot exist without Him, and, jn.ajvay, they
are He. At the same time they are obviously not He.
They are He when we are aware that the reflected
image is but a reflection ; they are not He when we for-
get the object they reflect and accept them as final
realities. So it is quite permissiable for Ibn 'Arab! to say
both: 'I am HeandJ^eJ^I,' and also 'I am He andjnnt
He.' HiTG^ir^otlitrajiscendental and immanent.
(D) THE SOUL
If there is really no duality of God and man, we might
ask: why should the mystic be so eager to effect a union
with God; why should the devout always seek a bridge
that would lead him to God? On the basis of Ibn 1
'Arabfs doctrine, the very words
'unification* with_^God and so on, are "meaningless,
For these words presuppose an original separateness
from God. For JEhnJAral^union with God is not an
eventual reaching or meeting Him but rather a JK^
coming aware of a relationsl^^th^t has ah^ys existed.
What the individual soul does is merely to awaken to
the realization of its unity with God. 1 The fact that I am
(fortunately, but seldom) aware of my liver or my
teeth does not presuppose that in order to achieve that
awareness I must go outside of myself in search of
either of these. Ibn 'Arab! nat^
5^erJ?econaes jGLod, as God never jDecomes man. They;
are always one, even though we are seldom a/ware of
this fact. Only the true mystic can be aware of it_
What Ibn 'Arab! says about Divine es^noejbeing
conscious of itself in toto and also of individual Names,
afipEes equally to his doctrine of the soul. In common
with several philosophers, he accepts the doctrine of a
Universal Soul. Where he differs from them is in point-
ing out'thaTtfthe individual soul within it is not 'part'
of it. For how, he asks, can soul a spiritual entity
be divided into parts ? The very word 'part' presupposes
quantity. Yet within the realm of spirit everything is
quality (essence). The Universal Soul is conscious both
of ^itself jis_a_ whqlejmd of each individual soul Svithiii'
h^ The latter, forming an individual aspect of the
Universal Soul, cannot be conscious of the whole but
only of itself. Thus God differs from man only in the
sense that a thing differs from its individual
According to Ibn 'Arabi, man consists of three
elements i spirit, soul and body. The three aspects of the
soul are the rational, vegetative and animal. The
1 See text from Kitdb al-Ajwiba.
rational soul Ibn *Arabi seems to identify with spirit^or
the rational principle in man (and not, as does Aristotle,
with intellect). The purpose of the JEgelatlye &QllUs to
seek food and to assimilate it. The animal soul has its
in tbf^h^LcaTheart and is shared by man and
animals. It represents their vital principle. Both
vegetative and animals souls Ibn 'Arab! regards as
part of the body. Thej2ii9Bal&Qul, on the other hand, is
independent. sLthe body, even though it uses it as a
vehicle. It is 'that perfect and simplest substance which
is living and active, the substance whose sole activities
arenFemeriibenng, retaining ideas, comprehending,
discrirnTriating, and reflecting'. 1
Viewed superficially, IbfPArabi's division into spirit
and body (rationality and animality) might wear a look
of dualism. In actual fact both spirit and body are, for
him, facets of the same central Reality, one being its
inward, the other its outward, aspect. While he admits
that^the body, unlike the jgsirit, is destructible, he
neverth^ess^fffers from many Muslim philosophers
in according it real being. Indeed, how could the body
be without such being in view of the fact that it repre-
sents the outward aspect of reality?
The chief aim of early Muslim philosophers was to
acquire intellectual command of truths which during
the years immediately following the death of the
Prophet were accepted unquestioningly on faith. So
long as the Muslim community felt no need for rational-
izing Quranic truths, it could dispense with the acquisi-
tion of a knowledge built on reason. But gradually the
Muslims found themselves compelled to explain
1 Risalahfi Ma'nd al-Nafs wa-l-Rub, Publ. by Asin y Palacios, in the Acts
of the iqth Oriental Congress, Algiers 1905, p. 153.
Quranic revelation in terms intellectually acceptable.
Attacks by Christian antagonists alone made such a
task imperative. However, as soon as they began to
tackle the problem of rational knowledge, questions
concerning the technique through which the mind
works forced themselves upon their attention. Does
knowlege come direct from God or is it the fruit of man's
own efforts? Does it reach the mind directly or are
complex processes involved ? Is the mind one indivisible
entity or does it work through separate channels ? These
and kindred questions had to be answered. The quest
for valid answers enabled the philosophers to probe into
problems that had only been touched upon by their
Greek masters. Some of the answers they evolved have
not been invalidated even by modern psychological
research. Al-Kindi, writing a thousand years ago,
developed a theory (of four types of 'spirit') that nothing
in 20th century psychology could easily refute. Ibn
Sina put forward a doctrine of the internal faculties of
perception that, while not dissimilar from Al-Kind!'s,
surpassed it in precision and elegance. Even Al-Ghazali
turned his attention to the ways by which the mind
acquired knowledge; and Ibn Rushd and many others
threw new light on that problem.
Ibn 'Arab! was no exception, and many pages of
his major works deal with the problem of knowledge.
But, as we should expect, his theories differ in their most
important aspects from those of other philosophers,
even though they show a resemblance with those of the
Sufis. According to hiiri^lhej&uL^^^
tnowledge^ but^^is^forgotten 5 'during its association
with the body. Thus r any newly acquired knowledgejs
in^^aTTty^oIcT knowledge suddenly remembered Jby
tl^sojyii/THrnEng processes hefaefines as the relating of
concepts (already existing in the soul) to each other.
(As Leonardo da Vinci said: 'To understand is to set up
a relationship.') Eachxcuicept represents an unchange-
able idea. A given relationship between concepts
cannot change. Each change means that a completely
new relationship has been entered into by the concepts
or the ideas they represent. (Here Ibn * Arab! obviously
bases himself on Aristotle's theory of the eternal nature
of the eidos and its subsequent inability to change, a
theory accepted by most Muslim philosophers, though
not by Al-GhazalL)
Where Ibn * Arab! differs from other Islamic thinkers
is in his views on the innermost nature of knowledge.
Man^sjgower tojipprehend the power that they usually
describe as spirit he defines as light, al nur. In man this
light takes_th_form of thejrational jsoul_ which, in turn,
is a 'mode' of Universal Reason^ al^aql al-kulli, the
Aristotelian Agent Intellect or Neo-platonic Logos. How
then does the light operate in man? 1
The first step in the acquisition of ordinary knowledge
is asensory perception. But what is it that enables the
senses to perceive an object? According to our philo-
sopher, it js the apprehending Light. That Light forms
the essence of tKe senses. The impressions derived by the
senses are instantly transferred to the heart which, in
turn, passes them on to the intellect. The intellect,
located mj^ Jbjrainj jrecognizes ^ these impressions for
what they are, namely sense perceptions, and then
From there they
finally reach the understanding (mufakkirafi) , which
analyses and tabulates them. The perceptions that are
of the greatest interest to the mind are retained by the
faculty closest to the heart (not, however, the physical
organ), namely memory. Now all the different channels
through which perception is being gathered and or-
1 See text from the Futuftat.
ganized function thanks to Light. Both mental faculties
and sensory perceptions owe their rational character
to that Light, the seat of which Ibn 'Arab! identifies
with a non-physical centre which he calls the heart or,
sometimes, the inward eye, al-ayn al-bastrah. Every-
thing that enables us to apprehend life in fact our very
awareness of living is this light.
It is not always easy to follow Ibn 'Arabi in his
explanations of the light. It would appear, however,
that he identifies it with our rational soul. We think
and feel, hear and see, form images and memorize, by
means of various faculties and senses. In their essence all
these are light. In other words, light is the quality (or
force) through which apprehension takes place. We
might call it the inmost essence of our intelligence or
that which, in the phenomenal world, is least separated
from the Divine.
Now it is the objects of our apprehension that come
into question: the phenomena, relationships, actions
and, finally, ideas, which the light enables us to appre-
hend. What is their essence? Since God is the root of
everything that is, He is Light par excellence. And so all
His creatures, men and beasts, ideas, trees and microbes,
are manifestations of Light. It follows, therefore, that
both the apprehending intelligence and its objects are
(functions of) Light. Equally true are the two opposite
formulations: what is not Light cannot apprehend
Light; and what is not Light cannot be apprehended by
Light. Indeed Ibn * Arabi points out that if a thing or
idea cannot be apprehended by any kind of mind, it has
no reality. It is even more obvious that what is not
Light for example, the mind of a complete idiot
cannot apprehend the Light (the truth), whether of
objects or ideas.
The most perfect knowledge accessible to man is that
of a mystic, Ibn 'Arab! tells us. In the mystic's case
Divine essence is revealed directly to the 'heart' in an
immediate vision. Such a vision does not depend upon
the intellect, and it can dispense with the complicated
processes of apprehension requisite for conceptual
knowledge. The mystic's heart sees (or reflects) all the
Divine perfections which, otherwise, are scattered in
endless multiplicity throughout the universe. In fact
only the mystic's heart can perceive Reality itself which
is beyond thought.
(F) INANIMATE OBJECTS
So far we have not discussed Ibn 'Arabi's views re-
garding objects other than man and animal. Since he
does not attribute to a stone or a twig the_ratiaaality
that distinguishes man, they might seem to exist in some
substratum untouched by the Divine spirit. Yet Ibn
'Arabi, while denying them the personal rationality
possessed by man, insists^thaj: they mamfest_j3egtsi
rationality. This results from their following their own
inner laws. And, as we know, all laws originate in God.
It will be remembered that, according to Ibn 'Arabi,
all pl^nomena_are God's Attributes. In so far as all
su 9^LJ^iofeMt^^ PiY^s^^Njysss
which, in turn, are aspects (or localizations) of the
Diy1ft^L^???perth~ey^are^ll identical in origin, though
not in their phenomenal manifestation. Must we then
assume that a stone's relationship to God does not
differ from that of man to God ?
Ibn 'Arabi tells us that man alone can knov^God
perfectly (just as God knows Himself through man
wKois God's consciousness 'in manifestation' that is,
exteriorized or made Visible'). EveoJlhe angels know
less of God than does man, for they know Him only in
His transcendental nature which has no relation to the
phenomenal world. Man alone can know God both in
His aspects of the Real and the jphenonienaL Why
Because, of all God's creatures, man alone is both real
and phenomenal, eternal and transiient, internal and
external. Inanjn^tejo^[ects, on the other Sand, can
know of GoJ^oi3rnuch as
selves. that is, ""of Crod's^^paHIanarName revealed
through them. They know God's i 'stoniness' or what is
stone within God; they know what is water, or metal,
or cabbage, in Him. Beyond any of these or similar
organisms, they can know nothing of God. .
(G) THE THING
Under the influence of Plato and Aristotle, Muslim
philosophy was greatly preoccupied with the question
of what constitutes a thing, or shay*. According to the
Mu'tazilah, a thing was a concept that could be known
regardless of whether it actually existed or not, existence
being only one of its various qualities. Ibn 'Arabi, too,
conceives of being as possible apart from things that
actually exist. It is only in the phenomenal world that
the quality of being must be possessed by an object in
order that it may exist.
How then does Ibn 'Arabi define non-being? He
divides things that have no being intojwo Categories*
To the first belong things that have no existence in any
of the planes of pure Being, that is God. These he calls
pure non-existent. To his second categQjy belongjthingg
which exist in one plane but not in another. He divides
them into two sub-categoriesi things which exist only
as intellectual concepts without the possibility of exis-
tence in the actual world (like, we might say, the con-
cept of a man with a hundred heads or a fire that is
wet); and, second, things which have a possible exis-
tence in the actual world without, however, existing in
it. (Such a thing would have been, for non-Australians,
the black swan in the days before Australia was dis-
covered, or any invention prior to its having been made,
e.g. the telephone or the jet plane a hundred years ago.)
Ibn ' Arabi points out that while these last two categories
of non-being can be objects of our thought, pure non-
being can never be; in other words, any concept that
our mind cannot possibly conceive is pure non-being.
This means that pure non-being is everything that
cannot be thought of or put into symbols.
Ibn 'Arabl's views are not dissimilar to those of the
Ikhwan al-Safa who held that a concept that cannot be
expressed in language is unthinkable. So they called the
word the 'body of the thought, 5 and maintained that
thought cannot exist without its verbal body. Ibn
'Arab! would certainly not disagree with this, for he
regarded both words and thoughts as Divine Attributes
and, thus, as partaking in the Divine essence. However,
something for which neither a word nor a thought can
be found cannot partake of that essence and thus is
Only with the advent of Jung's analytical psychology
has the world become familiar with the concept of the
archetypal dreams, dreams whose sources are to be
sought not in the subconscious of the individual but in
that of an entire civilization or nation. Most people
consider the notion of the archetypal dream as not only
new but revolutionary. In actual fact it is not new. For
Jung's formulation of such a dream can be found in
Ibn 'Arabi regards dreams as khayal, or mental
images (imaginings) which represent something be-
tween the real and the phenomenal worlds, as do our
imaginings. He also interprets khaydl as anything that
provides a symbol for either reality or for some hidden
meaning. In this particular sense, the entire phenomenal
world might be considered khaydl. In fact both that
world and dreams he regards as symbols of hidden
It is during dreams that imagination is at its most
active, producing ordinary dreams. According to Ibn
'Arabi, it is then that imagination gets hold of experi-
ences of daily life, and presents them to the 'inward
eye' (of the heart). In the inward eye, they are magni-
fied as though in a mirror, and it is the subsequently
distorted image of those experiences that fill our dreams.
Usually these images become the foci or symbols of
There also exists a second type of dream, which Ibn
' Arab! regards as of far greater significance, the material
for which comes not from our ordinary daytime
experiences but direct from the Universal Soul, or, as
Ibn 'Arab! sometimes calls it, the 'Guarded Table'. In
such a dream man's (rational) soul perceives the arche-
typal ideas contained in the Universal Soul. But even
in such dreams imagination gains possession of the
received ideas, and distorts them. As a result, man's
'inward eye', while in direct contact with the Universal
Soul, nevertheless does not act as a perfect mirror but as
a 'running, yet undefiled, stream wherein are reflected
illuminated objects of all descriptions'. 1 Thus the
dreamer sees only the reflections of the archetypal
ideas, and these are merely the symbols of the latter.
The symbols have been provided by the dreamer's own
imagination and not by the Universal Soul that
presented the ideas in all their purity. In consequence,
these dreams, being symbolical, have to be interpreted.
1 From Mtihfyat al-Qalb, quoted by Affifi, op. cit. p. 132.
For only the reality behind the symbols is real 'know-
ledge'. (This notion, we might add, would offer
opportunities to a Jungian analyst.)
There is, however, one type of dream that is not
symbolical but a direct revelation of Reality. Imagina-
tion does not enter into it, and the 'inward eye' re-
produces the exact reflection of the impression received.
In such a dream, the Universal Soul (with its arche-
typal ideas) reveals itself direct to man's soul without
any distortion. (What Ibn 'Arab! means, of course, is
that the Universal Soul reveals itself through the med-
ium of the individual soul.) Dreams of this nature
obviously call for no interpretation. They are the truly
archetypal dreams, and are similar to the mystic's
revelation (wahy) or inspiration (ilhdrri). They are the
direct vision of Reality, of Universal Truth.
(l) CAUSE AND EFFECT
The hardest test for a non-dualistic philosophy is pro-
vided by such distinctly dualistic concepts as those of
active and passive, cause and effect, and, finally, good
and evil. Aristotelian logic is compelled (by its very
nature) to accept the dualistic nature of these concepts.
But the acceptance of such a dualism by Ibn ' ArabI
would inevitably bring down the entire house of his
monistic^ doctrine. That his doctrine actually passes
the testisnot due to the author's piecemeal justification,
but to the fact that its validity follows organically from
the basic principles of his philosophy.
For Ibn 'Arabi's universe is not the effect of a cause
thatisGodj just as a phenomenon is not the Aristotelian
outcome of the imprint of form upon matter or, in other
words, of the necessary upon the possible. His universe
is^he^outward expressipyi of God's aspects of eternity
and infinity. Thus his universe botlrthe phenomenal,
and the invisible that we enter in the hereafter is a
constant process of creation.
In a system in which God provides both (what in
Aristotelian terminology must be called) cause and
effect, there must exist a like unity of origin on the
plane of visible phenomena, and terms such as cause
and effect can have no meaning. For Ibn 'Arab! God
is J:he only jource of both the U^tnm^a
ced^by it, ofboth the painter
painto^s picture. Both hayejlieir origin in Him, and so
GodJ^mmanent JjaJjjQtbLpf ttese_phenqmyia we call
cause and effect
TBiT^Srabi might have felt justified in explaining
away the duality of active and passive by merely
identifying the former with cause and the latter with
effect. But to seek refuge in intellectual shortcuts was
not his way of building up a philosophical system.
In the more conventional systems man appears as the
passive agent created by the will of an active God. For
Ibn^Arabi jnaj^i^jgasswejorily when he considers him-
selTas apart fromJOod, that is, exclusively ^lajphenp-
As soon, however, as h^ecomes aware of his
"^ et even irTtKat
condition he is also passive in so far as his 'active* nature
comes from God whose agent he is. Thus he is both
active ancL PJLSsiyej; active when
'passive when viewed as merelyjhenomerial. However,
in Ibn 'Arabl's system these definitions have no real
meaning. They represent merely our own mental
conceptions born of our tendency to view everything in
terms of opposites, contrasts, duality. Duality presup-
poses the existence of space, a dimension non-existent
in pure spirit. It also presupposes the possibility of
disharmony or disunity, and opens doors to the
'possible', in contradistinction to the 'necessary*.
Within the realm of pure spirit neither of these can
occur. There can only be unity, harmony and necessity.
So opposites, with their inevitable concomitants of
space, disunity, impermanence, and so on, can be
conceived only mentally, when we view the world
What is true of cause and effect applies equally to
active and passive. Thus the object of an action its
'passive' recipient is in turn active by his reaction to
it. If I hit someone, the reactions of the latter's muscles,
nerves, blood vessels, as well as of his mind and emo-
tions, constitute quite as much an 'action' as did the
(j) GOOD AND EVIL
It is by no means exceptional for Ibn * Arabi to put
forward more than one theory on a given subject, one
either amplifying the other or treating it from a different
aspect. As we would expect, Ibn ' Arabi's conception of
absolute Reality (Al-Haqq), which is that of absolute
Good (Al-Khayr al-Mahd), leaves no room for the duality
of good and evil. In the universe, as known to us, he
regards evil as non-existence, or rather, as the absence
of real existence. Such existence (belonging, as it does,
to Reality) must, of course, be 'positive'. Evil is thus
the lack of a corresponding positive quality. Darkness
is the absence of light, weakness the absence of strength,
a lie the absence of truth, illness the absence of health.
An organ becomes ill when health has been withdrawn
from it. It cannot exist in a condition of 'neutrality'
neither healthy nor unhealthy illness thus being not a
'quality' negative per se, but rather non-health. Every-
thing that really exists is for Ibn 'Arab! good otherwise
it could not be there. Consequently he regards evil as a
subjective, and not an objective, reality.
In the eyes of God all things must be good. Only
man's ignorance calls some of them good and some bad.
In his blindness man does not perceive that in the bad
things goodness might possibly lie hidden behind their
evil appearance. We might cite as an illustration of that
truth the positive qualitites of electricity which have
always existed in, but which were discovered only after
the evil forces inherent in lightning. Before their dis-
covery man could see no good whatsoever therein.
Likewise, the positive qualitites within penicillin had
potentially always existed within the mildew; but only
the mould's negative qualities were known before
Alexander Fleming's discovery. In its internal aspect,
Ibn 'Arab! considers everything to be good; only in its
external aspect, that is as mere appearance (khalq) may
a thing appear evil.
Since good cannot produce anything that is evil qua
evil, its evilness derives its apparent reality (that is, in
the world of appearance) from man's individual
reaction to it. A thing is considered evil because the
prevailing convention, morality or religious codes label
it as such. It appears as evil because it creates conflicts
with certain mental or emotional desires, or because it
disagrees with our individual temperament. Ibn
'Arab! insists that even such evil manifestations as
lying, disorder, ugliness, sinful action, merely denote
the absence of a positive quality, the presence of which
would deprive them of their evilness.
Now let us examine Ibn 'Arabl's second interpreta-
tion of evil. God's universe would not be perfect if it
did not also include imperfections. Perfection, which
implies completeness, must include everything, just as a
perfect, i.e. complete, colour scheme cannot be limited
to 'pretty' colours but must contain every imaginable
hue even 'dirty' greys and browns and black. Without
them the scheme would not be complete. It follows from
this that, in order to show perfection, the sum-total
of happenings and actions within the universe must of
necessity include 'imperfect', that is, 'evil', happenings
and actions. Since, however, all those actions derive
their being from God, it is He who ultimately decrees
or commands them.
What then is the meaning of sin, mcfsiyah, in Ibn
'Arabl's system? According to him, God decrees that
an action must take place, but forbids man to perform
it or, as he puts it, 'the prophets are asked to communi-
cate God's commandments to the people, but God does
not always will that such commandments be fulfilled'.
The contradiction implied in this statement is apparent
rather than real. What Ibn 'Arab! means is that God
decrees an action irrespective of whether, in human
eyes, it appears good or evil, God's decree (al-mashfah)
makes such an action as indispensable as it makes the
advent of night after day, of autumn after summer, and
so on. God does not particularly command the darkness
of the night or winter's cold, just as He does not
particularly command the evil of any particular action.
What He decrees is the action in its totality, irrespective
of whether we regard it as good or bad. It is not the
evil aspect in the action that He decrees but the action
as a whole and as an inevitable expression of His law.
In other words. He wills the action but not the evil
within it. He must approve of all actions because they
are all His. The conflict (nizd*} between them (in so
far as they contain what appears to us as evil) and hu-
man law or morality exists only for us who are ignorant
of the decree behind all God's manifestations. Actions
qua actions could not become manifest unless they were
'approved' by God.
Sin, then, in Ibn 'Arabi's doctrine, is disobedience
not to God's will (which would be impossible for man),
but to the 'mediate religious command'. 1 In God's eyes
everything that is must be. Since it must be, it would
be futile to define it as either good or evil. All that
can be said about it is that it is. We are thus entitled to
conclude that for Ibn 'Arab! morality, in a spiritual
sense, does not exist, or to put it differently, that he
considers morality as a purely human code. Within a
non-dualistic system such as his, in which everything
derives from God, there can be no room for the ordinary
concept of morality.
And yet morality enters Ibn 'Arabi's doctrine as it
were through a back door. But it is a morality conceived
not in the conventional way of relative values more
good or less good, and thus quantitative but a
'morality' that is purely qualitative, and that derives its
validity from purely spiritual considerations. Even in
Ibn 'Arabi's scheme man must strive for the good. Yet
he must do so, not because such striving denotes virtue
or moral soundness, but because it concerns itself with
the positive alone. For only the positive light, truth,
health represent reality, existence. A life of 'evil' is a
life of their opposites or 'absences', and thus of spiritual
non-existence. It is not an affirmation of life but of
escape from it, of only apparent existence.
'Aware' of the dilemma confronting man living in a
universe in which everything is willed by Him, God has
given man means by which to differentiate between a
life of affirmation and one of escapes. It is due to God
that man can distinguish between perfection and im-
perfection, good and evil, harmony and disharmony. If
man were not under the obligation to choose the real
rather than its opposite and thus the 'moral' rather than
the 'immoral', there would be no meaning in God's
injunctions to man to be c goocT. If everything on the
human level were equally 'good', there would be no
validity in some of the Divine Names which, by them-
selves, imply the 'moral' character of the relationship
between God and man. God the Pardoner (Al-Ghqffdr})
the Merciful (Al-Rahim], the Tormentor (Al-Mtfadh-
dhib), the Guiding (Al-Hddi) y would be meaningless if
man regarded every one of God's manifestations as
equally 'good' (in human terms) and had no need of
His mercy or his guidance. In the purely spiritual
sphere, that of absolute existence, Ibn 'Arab! obviously
cannot accept the dichotomy of good and evil and with
it morality. But in the world of appearance, the one in
which man normally lives, even he must stress the
contrast between moral and the immoral action. How-
ever, the decisive factor for him is not the moral aspect
of an action but its reality.
(K) FREE WILL AND PREDESTINATION
The problem of free will and predestination preoccupied
the Muslim philosophers from the very dawn of their
contemplations. The Qur'an abounds in sayings
stressing both man's freedom of action and God's
absolute power over man's destiny. The various philo-
sophical schools employed the most ingenious methods
to resolve the implicit conflict; but it cannot be said that
they ever succeeded in their attempts. The Determinists
(Al-Jabnyyah) held that man's actions are determined
by an outside agent, namely God; according to the
Ash'arites, God created man and all his actions; the
Mu* tazilah held that while a man's action derives from
his free will, his ability to act is God-given. But however
subtle their arguments, none of the schools provided a
satisfactory reconciliation of the Quranic theses insist-
ing on both God's omnipotence and man's free will.
Ibn 'Arab! disagrees with the doctrine otjabr as a
compulsion forced upon man from an outside agent.
Yet it was obviously impossible for him to accept free
will, for this would have left him no alternative but the
opposition of man's will to that of God, and thereby
have introduced dualism. Since, according to him,
everything has its origin and being in God, free will, as
ordinarily understood, can have no place in his system.
Does it follow that his God as a kind of tyrant who
steps in every time man performs an action and imposes
His dictate upon him? Does it mean that human choice
is governed by a relentless determinism and that man is
the helpless victim of Divine arbitrariness? For Ibn
'Arab! man's choice is not dictated by perpetual
interference on the part of God but by man's own inner
laws. Every leaf, flower and fruit is 'predetermined'
already by the seed from which it evolved. It is not
Divine capriciousness that makes one seed grow into a
big oak tree and another into a weakly maple; their
respective inner laws are contained in their seed. Ibn
' Arab! accepts man's own choice, but finds it inherent in
his own nature. Since, however, that nature derives
from God, free will, in the accepted sense, plays no part
in our philosopher's doctrine.
To understand his theory of human will it is necessary
first to know that what he really means by 'will' is not
exactly our habitual meaning. It signifies, rather, desire,
shahwah. It is not will but desire that makes a man crave
the satisfaction of some appetite. Desire, according to
Ibn ' Arabi, is concerned with material objects. Will, on
the other hand, is a spiritual force whose object is never
a material one. Will drives man towards spiritual
fulfilment, and, finally, towards the Divine. As such it is
free from all pleasant or unpleasant sensations. Even to
feel pleasure at the hope of gaining a vision of God is
not the outcome of will but of the desire Tor an object'.
But, of course, Ibn 'Arabi's 'will 8 and its gratification
are the privilege of a few exceptional beings, such as the
saints and mystics.
Though Ibn 'Arab! occasionally tries to place a
personal responsibility on human shoulders ('let him
praise no one but himself and blame no one but him-
self,' he writes in the Fusus p. 160), such efforts carry no
ring of conviction, and we suspect that they were a half-
hearted sop to the orthodox. In actual fact he denies
free will even to God. God merely decrees what He
knows must take place in accordance with the laws that
have their being in Him. It is impossible for Him to will
what does not lie in the nature of the thing itself.
This means that human fate is not pre-determined but
.y^-determined. Individual fate is simply man's essential
character as it exists from eternity in the Divine know-
ledge. Man receives as much of good as the 'necessity'
of his nature demands. It follows that fate is God's
decree concerning things. It is conditioned by His
knowledge of their essential nature. So whatever fate
decrees is decreed by means of the thing itself. Even
God cannot give man either more or less of certain
qualities than he actually possesses. In other words,
even God cannot perform a miracle that would violate
the laws that have their being in Him.
When we consider Ibn 'Arabl's doctrine of free will
together with his statements on the nature of good and
evil, we find that he is far from being a predeterminist.
Though everything is determined by the inner laws
governing the nature of the particular agent, it does not
follow that the agent is cognisant of those laws. He has to
act in almost complete ignorance of them: in other
words, he acts as though the 'predetermined' character
of his 'choice' were absent. At the same time, if he wishes
to lead a life of Reality, he will strive for the positive or
that which has true being. Thus, however much the
nature of his choice and the outcome of his actions
might be determined by his inner laws, he will act as
though he were a free agent, and he will even act
'morally', however little conventional morality may be
Ibn 'Arab! devotes a great deal of thought to mystical
experiences and the the 'mechanism' within them. The
usual Sufi term for 'union' with God is f and 9 (passing
away, or annihilation). But not all Sufis agree on its
meaning, nor on the meaning of its opposite pole, the
term baqa\ or enduring. Most of the Sufis before Ibn
* ArabI use the word fanff to describe a purely subjective
state. They agree that in fanff consciousness of the
phenomenal world is lost; that fund 9 leads to a gradual
unification with God ; and that it involves a giving up of
all personal desires, and resignation to the will of God.
But, as Dr Affifi points out (op. cit., p. 139), with the
exception of Al-Qushayri, no Sufi defines fand 9 or baqff
as clear psychological states : the one as 'abandonment
of the phenomenal', the other as 'concentration of the
Divine and spiritual'. As Al-Qushayri says (in his
Risalah, p. 32), 'the two states together are like a lover's
absorption in the beloved'. Practically all other Sufi
statements on f and 9 were vague.
Ibn 'Arab! was not only a Sufi but also a philosopher,
whose intellectual capacities were second to none in
Muslim thought. In his views on f and 9 he disagrees not
only with most Sufis but also with those Western
mystics who describe a state corresponding to fand 9 .
How can even a mystic, he asks, 'die to self, and yet be
conscious of God? Consciousness (irrespective of its
object) implies continuation of self. A passing away of
self cannot mean anything but sleep. In such a state,
'the mystic is neither with his "self 5 nor with his "Lord" ;
he is asleep, he is unaware'. Ibn e Arabi dismisses as
ignorance the assumption that the mystic has become
God or died to himself.
Ibn * Arab! considers/an**' from both a mystical and a
metaphysical aspect. In a mystical sense, fanff is a
passing away of ignorance and a becoming aware of the
essential oneness of the whole. It is realization of one's
non-existence as form (phenomenon). This, he claims,
can be achieved only intuitively. In a metaphysical
sense, fanff is a passing away of the forms of the pheno-
menal world and continuation of the one universal
essence. It is the disappearance of form at the moment
of the manifestation of God in another form or, as he
puts it, 'the disappearance of a form is its fanff at the
moment of the manifestation of God in another form'. 1
It can be said then (on the basis of Ibn c Arabi's, and the
atomists', doctrine of the world as being in a constant
process of creation, that is, of destruction and recreation)
thatfanff is catching the infinitesimal moment between
the annihilation of one Divine Attribute and the emer-
gence of a new Attribute. (What Ibn 'Arab! appears to
mean is that, since Divine Attributes, by their very
nature, exist in time, only the 'instant' between them
belongs to eternity the dimension of pure essence.
And so it is only then that the timelessness offand' can
In his endeavour to give an objective assessment of
fand\ Ibn 'Arabi delineates it as a gradual process
which he divides into seven stages. These are as follows :
i. Passing away, from sin. This Ibn 'Arab! does not
interpret in the usual Sufi manner as the abandonment
of all sin, but as a realization that all actions are right
(not in a moral sense but as coming from God). That
which is sin, is to regard one's actions as coming from
2. Passing away from all actions in the realization
that God is the agent of all actions.
3. Passing away from all attributes of the 'form' in
the realization that they all belong to God. As Ibn
'Arab! puts it; c God sees Himself in you through your
own eye and, therefore, He really sees Himself: this is
the meaning of the passing away of attributes.' 1
4. Passing away from one's own personality in the
realization of the non-existence of the phenomenal self,
and the endurance (baqff] of the eternal substance
which is its essence.
5. Passing away from the whole world in the reali-
zation of the real aspect which is at the bottom of the
6. Passing away from all that is other than God, even
from the act of passing away (fane? al-fand 9 ). The mystic
ceases to be conscious of himself as contemplator, God
being both the contemplator and the object of the con-
templation. (This is very different from the common
Sufi view of the disappearance of consciousness which
Ibn 'Arab! defines as mere sleep.)
7. Passing away from all Divine attributes. The
universe ceases to be the 'effect of a cause' and becomes
a c Reality in appearance' (Haqqfl guhur). This seventh
stage represents the fullest realization of the oneness of all
things, andmustbe the final aim of all mystical endeavour.
It may be objected that Ibn 'Arabi tries in vain to
give an intellectually acceptable explanation of the
mystical experience, since such an experience is
essentially incommunicable. It must, however, be
l Fuftif, p. ,198.
conceded that no individual experience that involves
quality and not merely quantity is communicable
except by approximation. No one has ever been able to
convey to others the essence of the feeling of being in
love, or of the sensation of plunging headlong into icy
water. All communication is effected by symbols,
whether verbal, mathematical or of any other nature.
Though the symbols used by a mystic differ more pro-
foundly from the experience they symbolize than do
most symbols from their respective experience, the
difference between the two kinds of symbols is not
fundamental. If we wish to communicate a mystical
experience, we can do it only by employing symbols
similar to those we employ when communicating any
kind of qualitative experience. These symbols, being
media belonging to a plane different from the plane of
the things they symbolize, must needs distort the truth
of the experience. It may well be that a mystical ex-
perience sweeps through the different stages as tabulated
by Ibn ' Arab! as though in a flash, and that his detailed
tabulation is too complex and artificial to explain it. It
may seem too particularized and intellectual, but it
contributes to a clearer understanding of the mystical
Summing up, we might say that for Ibn 'ArabI the
goal offand* is*the attainment of true knowledge by the
passing away of everything phenomenal, that is, every-
thing other than God. Attainment of such knowledge
can be equated with awareness of God. This, however,
must not be interpreted as becoming God. Rather is it
God's recognizing Himself through, and within the
medium of man.
(M) THE LOGOS
No other Muslim thinker has dealt more thoroughly
with the doctrine of the Logos than has Ibn * Arabi. The
Logos doctrine not necessarily always under that
name plays an important part in Islamic philosophy.
In their preoccupation with it Muslim thinkers based
themselves inevitably on Plotinus. To some extent Ibn
'Arab! did likewise. Yet, in his hands, that doctrine
assumes its own peculiar character. Incidentally, it
forms one of the main subjects of his Fusus.
For Ibn 'Arabi the Logos is the creative, animating
and rational principle and, as such, Reality of Realities.
It is the inward aspect of the Godhead and the Godhead
is its ou t tward aspect. It is God's consciousness and, as
such, contains all the ideas of existing (or potential)
objects, without, however, in itself, having multiplicity.
It is through the Logos that the world is brought into
manifestation. Since the world manifests its perfection,
it, too, must be, and indeed is, perfect. Besides being the
principle of Divine creativeness, the Logos naturally
has rationality. In fact it is through the Logos that God
becomes conscious of Himself. For even in the case of
God, thought is a function not of the thinker as a whole
but of His mind.
Now, according to Ibn e Arab!, the Divine conscious-
ness reaches its supreme point in the Perfect Man. So it
is in the Perfect man that God knows Himself perfectly.
It is to Him that God says (according to a hadith):
'I have not created a creature dearer to me than thee.
With thee I give and with thee I take, and with thee I
punish.' Evidently Ibn 'Arabi's Logos represents the
'agent' through whom God can emerge from His
absoluteness, His unknowableness (and, in a sense,
unknowingness) into manifestation.
So far Ibn ' Arabi's doctrine would seem to differ but
little from that of either Philo or Plotinus. Where he
completely parts company with his Greek predecessors
is in his interpretation of the manifested Logos. Who is
this Perfect Man, for him? It is the Prophet Muham-
mad. Does this mean that Ibn 'Arab! takes over the
Christian doctrine of Incarnation, and assigns to
Muhammad the status of Jesus in Christian dogma?
Such a deification of Muhammad would, of course, be
regarded in Islam as polytheism. However unorthodox
Ibn 'Arab! might be, he was not likely to propound a
doctrine that would have cleared the way for what
Muslims consider to be an essential dualism (if not
worse) in Christianity. But then his Logos-Muhammad
is not the man Muhammad from Mecca but Muham-
mad as the active principle of Divine knowledge, as the
spiritual (and not phenomenal) head of the hierarchy
of sainthood and prophethood.
Seeds of a Logos doctrine were sown in the Qur'an
itself. In a number of instances the term ruh (spirit) and
kalimah (word) are employed to denote a Logos concept,
as e.g. in Surah iv, 169: 'Verily the Messiah, Jesus the
son of Mary, is but the Apostle of God, and His Word
which He cast into Mary and a spirit from Him/ On
another occasion, Jesus is described as God's word : The
Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only the messenger of
God, and His word that He committed to Mary.' In his
Fusus, Ibn 'Arab! calls every prophet a logos but not the
Logos. Saints and prophets are, in his view, the perfect
instruments of the universal Logos. But while they in-
dividually manifest this or that particular aspect of the
Logos, Muhammad alone unites in himself all these
Particularly interesting is our philosopher's inter-
pretation of the difference between the Logos (Muham-
mad) and mankind to which Adam another aspect of
the Logos stands in a somewhat similar relation to that
existing between Muhammad and other saints. In fact
Muhammad and Adam are for Ibn 'Arab! practically
identical. But while in the phenomenal world Muham-
mad is the inward aspect of Adam (Humanity), in the
world to come, that is the spiritual, Adam will be the
inward aspect and Muhammad the outward of the same
Reality, i.e. the Logos.
Now it must be repeated that Ibn 'Arab! does not
identify the Logos with the earthly person of the Prophet
but with the Spirit 'of Muhammad, of which the man
from Mecca and all the prophets, including Moses,
Abraham and Jesus, were individual manifestations.
(Though by no means indentical, that relationship is
somewhat similar to that between Jesus of Nazareth and
Jesus Christ as the incarnation of God the Father.) The
entity Muhammad, combining in itself both the Spirit
of Muhammad and Muhammad the man, is for Ibn
'Arab! the link between the eternal and the temporal,
the Real and the phenomenal. While Muhammad the
man was born, was active, and died in time, the Spirit
of Muhammad exists in all eternity. It is identical with
the First Intellect (Haqiqat al-Haqa'iq). It is the 'deposi-
tor' (mulqi) of the logoi (kalimdt) of the entire world, and,
as such, identical with the Holy Spirit (Ruh). Muham-
mad is, thus, the Perfect Man and, as such, the most
perfect manifestation of God who Himself is Absolute
While every human being is potentially a microcosm,
only the Perfect Man is an actual microcosm which
manifests all Divine perfections. Only in him are united
all that is manifestable and all the manifestations that,
otherwise, exist only separately, whether in a spiritual
or phenomenal state. Though Ibn 'Arab! does not
actually say so, he almost leaves us under the impression
that the Perfect Man (as realized in Muhammad)
surpasses the Godhead in perfection, for he alone is not
merely spiritual perfection but equally its phenomenal
manifestation. But such an impression would be wrong,
for it would suggest (if only by implication) some sort
of duality between Godhead and the Perfect Man.
Indeed Ibn 'Arabi stresses that the Perfect Man is 'to
God as the eye-pupil is to the eye . . . and through him
God beholds His creatures'. 1
While there are many similarities between Ibn
* Arabi's Logos doctrine and corresponding doctrines in
Christianity, it would be wrong to deduce that the
former derives from the latter. Christian Logos concep-
tions are based on the idea of the Incarnation which
Ibn 'Arab! utterly rejects. His Spirit of Muhammad is
not a second Person in the Godhead : it is God Himself
viewed from a particular aspect. Furthermore, the God
of Christianity is spirit, is love, while Ibn 'Arabfs God
is beyond all attributes 2 and acts and reveals Himself
only through a particular Agent whom he calls the
Spirit of Muhammad. The difference is far more than
merely a semantic one. Paradoxically, it might be said
that while the God of Christianity is everything and yet
becomes Incarnate (in the person of Christ), Ibn
'Arabi's God, while nothing but pure essence that acts
through an 'agent', does not require an incarnation.
While the God of both Christianity and Islam created
the universe and is the Creator, Ibn 'Arabfs God
manifests Himself in the infinite forms of the universe.
It might be asked why Ibn * Arabi should have spent
so much time and effort upon evolving so complex a
doctrine of the Logos? We can only assume that, like so
many philosophers before him, he found it impossible
to conceive of creation, that is, the relationship between
s 1 FufOf f p. i p.
1 The word attribute* is used here in its common sense and not in the
specific sense in which Ibn * Arab! uses it when he refers to Divine Names
becoming Divine Attributes.
God and the universe, without some 'hierarchical*
system. Hierarchy is inherent in every ordered system.
It must needs dominate the macrocosm as well as the
microcosm. No man could function properly without
organizing his various functions in some inner heir-
archy. Thus he will not put the whole of his physical
energy into picking up a pin, just as he will not expend
the whole of his emotions for a minor pleasure or a
minor irritation. An innate hierarchical system within
him instinctively makes him assign certain duties to
certain inner 'agents' rather than employ the whole of
himself for each one of them. Likewise, God does not
act (or manifest Himself) in toto in the greatest as well
as the least significant of His manifestations. He will
assign specific agents for specific functions. Hence the
acceptance in most religions of archangels, angels,
spirits, and so on.
A hierarchical system is of course the basis of most
Muslim doctrines of creation as it was of those of the
Neo-platonists. But whereas their system implies
duality (God on the one hand, and His emanations
(or creatures), with the succession of Universal Reason,
Spirits of Spheres, the phenomenal world, and so on, on
the other), Ibn 'Arabi's system shows no such duality.
It might be said that while their heirarchy is a vertical
one, beginning with God at the top and reaching matter
at the bottom, Ibn 'Arabfs system is a centrifugal one
or, rather, one in which all the hierarchies remain
within the circle. They are merely the different modes,
the inner and outer manifestation of one Reality. That
Reality might be said both to act from a centre and to be
all-embracing. The doctrines of the philosophers only
pretended to solve the problem of duality between a
Unitarian God and a universe of multiplicity and
imperfections, and they did it by the use of such terms
as 'emanation' instead of 'creation', 'necessity' of God's
nature instead of God's 'will', and so forth. Al-Ghazali
appears to have solved the problem by accepting the
simpler Quranic doctrine of creation. In actual fact he
left the intellectual solution in the air. Ibn 'Arab!
would seem to be the only one who solved the problem
both from the mystical and the philosophical points of
view; that is, in so far as such a problem can ever be
solved intellectually, and the solution be expressed
through the imperfect medium of language.
We might perhaps summarize Ibn 'Arabi's Logos
doctrine in the following manner:
Logos is Reality of Realities, first Manifestation of
the Absolute; Logos is Reality of Muhammad, not the
man of Mecca, but Muhammad the principle or the
Spirit of Muhammad; the Logos- Muhammad unites in
himself all the prophets who, in turn, are minor logoi;
the Logos-Muhammad had been manifesting himself in all
the genuine prophets long before Muhammad of
Mecca was born.
Each individual prophet manifests but one parti-
cular 'Name' of God, whereas the Logos-Muhammad, the
Seal of the Prophets, manifests all His names; the
Logos-Muhammad is the step from the Godhead to the
phenomenal universe; it is the link between the eternal
and the phenomenal.
And since Ibn 'Arab! approaches the Logos problem
from more aspects than one, we might conclude by
saying that: in its metaphysical aspect the Logos is
Reality of Realities; in its mystical aspect the Logos is
Reality of Muhammad; in its human aspect the Logos
is the Perfect Man. Naturally all the three are identical,
as a man remains the same, irrespective of whether we
consider him as a spiritual, biological, intellectual,
racial, social or any other entity.
(N) HEAVEN AND HELL
Divine mercy and divine punishment run like a thread
through the Qur'an, and thus heaven and hell play an
important part in Muslim doctrine. Whatever else the
Qur'an might be, it most certainly is a book of the most
pervasive moral implications. By no stretch of the
imagination can the same be said of Ibn 'Arabi's
doctrine. In a scheme such as his, there is little room for
orthodox morality. In view of this, it is surprising to
find that he speaks of both heaven and hell and of the
ultimate effects of moral and immoral actions.
Unlike some of the Sufis, especially Al-Muhasibi and
Al-Ghazali, Ibn 'Arab! does not attempt to tell us what
we ought to do; how to behave in order to avoid hell
and to deserve heaven. Now morality, it has been
argued earlier, is primarily a matter of degree and thus
of quantity. Ibn 'Arab! is seldom concerned with
quantity, with the substantial aspects of the universe.
His concern must needs be the essence, the true reality
of, and behind, phenomena. And essence, unlike sub-
stance, is not a matter of quantity but of quality. Yet
since heaven and hell depend upon human behaviour
in a moral, that is primarily a quantitative, sense, it
would be difficult to equate them with the domain of
In spite of all this, Ibn 'Arab! not only speaks of
heaven and hell, but he does so in the detailed and
luxuriant vocabulary of orthodox Islamic literature,
especially of the Isma'ilians and Carmathians. But, as
is to be expected, when he speaks of heaven he means
something very different from the orthodox heaven,
and his hell has not much in common with the hell of
the learned 'ulama'. While the language he employs
in describing these two religions is designed to mollify
the orthodox, the meaning behind it is his own. It is in
fact the geography of heaven and hell he even provides
a diagram of both these areas that left so deep a mark
upon Dante, and was taken over by him in the Divine
Comedy. 1 But, having almost overwhelmed us with
traditional descriptions of Paradiso and Inferno, Ibn
'Arab! assures us that these are mere words, and he
invites us to interpret them as we like or, rather, as he
Inevitably the agonies of hell are for Ibn 'Arab!
nothing but symbols, and the existence of both heaven
and hell in their conventional meaning is denied by
him. He regards both as purely subjective states of the
soul. His hell is nothing but the realization by the self
of its own enslavement, which is selfhood. One Arabic
word for hell, jahannam, he interprets as distance, or
being-away from God. In consequence, to be in hell
means to imagine that a real gulf exists between man
and God, and to be oblivious of the fact of their oneness.
Jannah, the Arabic word for heaven, or paradise, he
interprets as deriving from janna, to conceal. Jannah is
thus for him the Divine essence in which all multiplicity
is concealed; consequently, the realization of absolute
unity. In the one case the soul, being the slave of a
self that stands between it and the Divine, imagines
itself to live in separation from God in a world of
multiplicity. In the other case it enjoys the delights of
'living' in a state of complete unity. Since Ibn 'Arabi
insists upon the ultimate salvation of every soul, there
is in the last analysis really little difference between his
heaven and his hell. The only difference between the
damned whose existence he seems to accept merely
to be on the safe side with the orthodox and the blessed
is that while the latter will behold the beatific vision,
for the former that vision will be too veiled to be
1 Sec Islam and the Divine Comedy, by Asin y Palacios.
recognized. But, finally, the veils will be removed even
from their eyes, and even they will share that experience.
Ibn ' Arabi's heaven and hell appear to have much in
common with those of Ibn Sina. Yet he is more charit-
able than the great Persian doctor. It would, however,
be wrong to attribute his attitude to sentimentality or
to some whim on his part. His heaven and hell form a
logical part of a doctrine which cannot possibly admit
duality even in after-life. But this essential non-duality
of heaven and hell is not 'manufactured' artificially. It
forms a logical part of it. How could there be the
opposites of 'real' hell and 'real' heaven in a system in
which all things, both good and evil, have their being
in God or, rather, in their own laws which, however,
derive from God? Had Ibn 'Arab! tried to conform to
orthodoxy and accepted the traditional heaven and hell,
then indeed the unity of his doctrine would have dis-
integrated into dualism.
(O) LOVE AND BEAUTY
In the Qur'an, it is the quality of Divine mercy rather
than of Divine love that predominates. Love implies
reciprocity, and it would be presumptuous of man to
assume that his love of God must impel his Maker to
love him in return. In?ufLdoctrines, of course, love of
man and God. can be^said to fbrmjthe centrarcoreTIbn
'AraEf is no exception to that rule. But His interpreta-
tion of the man-God love relationship differs from that
of the other Sufis. He agrees that the basis of all religions
is the worship of God. But could man worship anything
without loving the object of his worship ? Without love
worship is impossible. In fact, for Ibn 'Arabi, love is
that which pervades all beings and holds them together.
However much love may differ in its forms and expres-
sions, it is fundamentally one, for it represents the
Divine Essence. Since, however, the highest object of
man's love is God (or Divine Essence), that object, too,
is love. In other words: that which, in man, turns
lovingly towards God is, too, of the Divine Essence. As
Ibn 'Arab! puts it: C I swear by the reality of Love that
Love is the cause of all love,' and: 'Were it not for Love
(residing) in the heart, Love (God) would not be
worshipped.' 1 Thus Ibn * Arabl's inevitable formulation
becomes : love loves love. This, of course, is the natural
climax of a doctrine of absolute non-dualism. This
climax also denotes the dynamic and living quality in
the idea and the function of love.
It must follow that for Ibn c Arab! true worship im-
plies neither the verbal invocation of the Divine name
(as by the orthodox in their prayers) nor even the heart's
concentration on God (as by the Sufis). True worship
means for him contemplating God lovingly in all His
aspects from the most spiritual to the most material,
in short, in everything that exists, including the con-
templator himself. This, however, is far from the
triumphant and, some would say, vainglorious cry of
Al-Hallaj, 'Am al-Haqq\
Since the fundamental factor underlying all Divine
manifestation is love, we would naturally assume that,
for Ibn * Arabi, love is the supreme purpose of existence:
an end than which no other can be of equal worth. And
yet he tells us that love as such has no intrinsic value !
There is something even beyond love, something that is
love's inmost 'cause'. That something is Beauty.
It comes almost as an anticlimax to find a thinker
who probes so deeply into the very heart of existence
elevating an aesthetic quality even if it be the highest
to the supreme position in the Divine scheme. Yet
even in this unexpected conclusion Ibn 'Arab! is still
, pp. 387 & 390, qu. by Affifi, p. 151.
perfectly consistent. For is it not true that love without
the incentive of beauty is a mere abstraction? Do we
not love only what we consider to be beautiful? The
standards of beauty may differ, and that which one
person deems beautiful another one may regard as
ugly. What matters is that for the lover even if for
no one else the object of his love must be beautiful.
He may be in love with a person regarded by all others
as hideous. But if he loves that person, he does so because
there is some element of beauty in that person not
necessarily physical to evoke his love. We may be in
love with a reptile or any other creature or object
generally regarded as repellent, because even such a
creature might well be endowed with beauty visible to
us but concealed from others. Rembrandt falls in love
with ugly old Jews in Amsterdam or with the darkness
of shadows, and Utrillo with the peeling plaster on
houses of mean Parisian streets on a grey winter even-
ing; because both artists found beauty in such unlikely
models. And because they are deeply in love with those
hidden aspects of beauty, they succeed in making that
beauty manifest to all.
Man loves God, says Ibn 'Arabl, because God is
beautiful. (Al-Farabi discerned God's beauty in the
beauty of the order permeating the God-created
universe.) Indeed it is inconceivable that we could love
God without considering Him beautiful. An 'ugly' god
might be feared, but he cannot be loved. We might
offer him our sacrifices, but never our love. God, on the
other hand, loves His creatures man and all creation
because these, too, are beautiful. Whence do they derive
beauty? Clearly, it is God's beauty that is the source of
every kind of beauty, whether spiritual, intellectual qr
physical, even though God's own beauty as such must
of necessity be beyond all form.
There still remains the question: why should God
love the visible beauty as contained in the Visible'
forms of the universe? Ibn 'ArabI tells us that God
loves it because in the beauty of created forms His
own 'form-less' beauty, in fact His very being, is
reflected. 'Does God not say,' Ibn 'Arabi exclaims, 'O
David, My yearning for them is greater than their
yearning for me?' 1 The iyth century English author,
James Howell, seems to have perceived a similar truth
when, in his book Instructions for Forreine Travell (1642),
he wrote : 'By looking downward one can see the stars
in the water, but he who looks only upward cannot see
the water in the stars.' Without the water the stars
could not contemplate their own beauty.
Beauty and the love it inspires are thus the cause of
all creation. They are equally the cause of the return
of all creatures to God in the double movement of their
urge for Him and His urge for them.
IBN 'ARABI'S TEXTS
ONE of the main obstacles facing the English-speaking
student of Ibn 'Arabi's ideas is the scarcity of trans-
lations. The pioneer in this field was Professor R. A.
Nicholson of Cambridge who, to the present day,
remains the chief exponent of Ibn 'Arab! in the English-
speaking world. Though he spared neither time nor
ingenuity on this task, even he admitted finding him-
self often on the brink of defeat. For he found that
rendering Ibn 'Arab! into a Western language was a
labour almost beyond the capacities of any scholar.
'The vast bulk of Ibnu '!-' Arabi's writings,' he declared,
'his technical and scholastic terminology, his recondite
modes of thought, and the lack of method in exposition
have, until recently, deterred European Orientalists
from bestowing on him the attention which he de-
serves.' 1 On another occasion Nicholson declared that
' the theories set forth in the Fusus are difficult to under-
stand and even more difficult to explain'. In spite of
these difficulties he persevered, and it is due mainly to
him that we have some Ibn 'Arab! texts in English.
The bulk of the texts quoted in the following pages is
(A) FUSUU 'L-HIKAM
The following texts are taken from Ibn * Arabi's
Fufusu 'l-Hikam ( The Bezels of Divine Wisdom) in the
1 Reynold A. Nicholson, A Literary History of the Arabs. Cambridge,
University Press, 1907.
translation of the late R. A. Nicholson. Compared to
the Futuhdt al-Makkiyya, the Fusus is a very short work,
consisting of twenty-seven chapters, each of which
bears the name of one of the prophets. In spite of its
comparative brevity, it has always been considered as
quite as important as the Futukat y and has persistently
been commented upon by Muslim philosophers and
mystics. Unfortunately, it is a very difficult book to
understand and R. A. Nicholson admits that the
original text is almost beyond an intelligible rendering
into English. The author's language is so technical,
figurative and involved/ he confesses, 'that a literal
reproduction would convey very little.' Nevertheless
Professor Nicholson perservered, in the hope that 'by
collecting and arranging illustrative passages' and by
availing himself 'of the commentator's aid' he might
be able to 'throw some light on a peculiarly recondite
phase of mystical scholasticism 5 .
The first passage deals with the nature of God (as
does, in fact, the FUJUS in general), in its true, or
absolute sense, that is, His essence (*aynuhu, from *qyn,
essence or identity). As has already been implied, God's
essences (cfyan) are the same both in Him and in His
creatures, His creative word (kun, 'be') merely actual-
izing their existence, according to the law inherent
within the creatures themselves, that is, within their
essence. But only to the mystic is it given to see that God
is one and all, and one is all, a typical Ibn 'Arab!
formulation which, while baffling at first, becomes quite
simple once we accept the non-dualistic nature of his
Sublimity (*uluw] belongs to God alone. The
essences (a'yan) of things are in themselves non-
existent, deriving what existence they possess from
God, who is the real substance (*qyri) of all that
exists. Plurality consists of relations (nisab), which
are non-existent things. There is really nothing
except the Essence, and this is sublime (transcendent)
for itself, not in relation to anything, but we predicate
of the One Substance a relative sublimity (transcen-
dence) in respect of the modes of being attributed to
it: hence we say that God is (huwa) and is not (Id
huwa). Kharraz, 1 who is a mode of God and one of
His tongues, declared that God is not known save by
His uniting all opposites in the attribution of them
to him (Kharraz). 2 He is the First, the Last, the
Outward, the Inward ; He is the substance of what is
manifested and the substance of what remains latent
at the time of manifestation; none sees Him but
Himself, and none is hidden from Him, since He is
manifested to Himself and hidden from Himself; and
He is the person named Abu Sa'id al-Kharraz and
all the other names of originated things. The inward
says 'No' when the outward says 'I', and the outward
says 'No* when the inward says T, and so in the case
of every contrary, but the speaker is One, and He is
substantially identical with the hearer. . . . The
Substance is One, although its modes are different.
None can be ignorant of this, for every man knows
it of himself, 8 and Man is the image of God.
Thus things became confused and numbers
appeared, by means of the One, in certain degrees. 4
J Abu Sa'id al-Kharraz (ob. A.D. 890) was a well-known ufi of
1 The mystic cannot know God unless he is illuminated by all the
Divine attributes, so that he becomes a haqq.
8 Every individual is conscious of having different faculties and
4 One in the first degree is one, in the second ten, in the third a
hundred, in the fourth a thousand, and each of these degrees comprises
simple and complex numbers, just as species comprise individuals and
The One brought number into being, and number
analysed the One, and the relation of number was
produced by the object of numeration. ... He that
knows this knows that the Creator who is declared to
be incomparable (munazzah) is the creatures which
are compared (mushabbah] with Him by reason of
His manifesting Himself in their forms albeit the
creatures have been distinguished from the Creator.
The Creator is the creature, and the creature is the
Creator: all of this proceeds from One Essence; nay,
He is the One Essence and the many (individualized)
essences. . . . Who is Nature and Who is all that is
manifested from her? 1 We did not see her diminished
by that which was manifested from her, or increased
by the not-being of aught manifested that was other
than she. That which was manifested is not other than
she, and she is not identical with what was manifested,
because the forms differ in respect of the predication
concerning them: this is cold and dry, and this is hot
and dry : they are united by dryness but separated by
cold and heat. Nay, the Essence is (in reality) Nature.
The world of Nature is many forms in One Mirror;
nay, One Form in diverse mirrors. 2 Bewilderment
arises from the difference of view, but those who
perceive the truth of what I have stated are not
In the following passages Ibn 'Arabi discusses the
nature and function of man in relation to God :
When God willed in respect of His Beautiful
1 Real Being, when limited by a universal individualizatipn, is Nature,
from which are manifested secondary and tertiary individualizations,
viz., natural bodies of various kinds.
1 Nature may be regarded either as all the particular forms in which
Reality reveals itself or as the universal form of Reality revealing itself in
all particular forms.
Names (attributes), which are beyond enumeration,
that their essences (a*yan) or, if you wish you may
say 'His essence ( c qynukuY should be seen, He caused
them to be seen in a microcosmic being (kawnjdmi*)
which, inasmuch as it is endowed with existence, 1
contains the whole object of vision, and through
which the inmost consciousness (sin) of God be-
comes manifested to him. This He did, because the
vision that consists in a thing's seeing itself by means
of itself is not like its vision of itself in something else
that serves as a mirror for it: therefore God appears'
to Himself in a form given by the place in which He
is seen (i.e. the mirror), and He would not appear
thus (objectively) without the existence of this place
and His epiphany to Himself therein. God had
already brought the universe into being with an
existence resembling that of a fashioned soulless body,
and it was like an unpolished mirror. 2 Now, it belongs
to the Divine decree (of creation) that He did not
fashion any place but such as must of necessity
receive a Divine soul, which God has described
as having been breathed into it; and this denotes
the acquisition by that fashioned form of capacity
to receive the emanation (fayd), i.e., the perpetual
self-manifestation (tajalli) which has never ceased
and never shall. It remains to speak of the re-
cipient (of the emanation). The recipient proceeds
from naught but His most holy emanation, for the
whole affair (of existence) begins and ends with
1 i.e., relative existence, wherein Absolute Being is reflected.
8 The world of things was brought into existence before the creation of
Man, in so far as every Divine attribute (universal) logically implies the
existence of its corresponding particular, which is the Essence individua-
lized by that relation, whereas Man alone is the Essence individualized
by all relations together. Since the universe could not manifest the unity
of Being until Man appeared in it, it was like an unpolished mirror or a
body without a soul.
Him: to Him it shall return, even as from Him it
The Divine will (to display His attributes) entailed
the polishing of the mirror of the universe. Adam
(the human essence) was the very polishing of that
mirror and the soul of that form, and the angels are
some of the faculties of that form, viz., the form of the
universe which the Sufis in their technical language
describe as the Great Man, for the angels in relation
to it are as the spiritual and corporeal faculties in the
human organism 2 . . . . The aforesaid microcosmic
being is named a Man (insari) and a Vicegerent
(khalifa). He is named a Man on account of the
universality of his organism and because he com-
prises all realities. 8 Moreover, he stands to God as
the pupil (insdri), which is the instrument of vision,
to the eye; and for this reason he is named a Man. By
means of him God beheld His creatures and had
mercy on them. 4 He is Man, the originated (in his
body), the eternal (in his spirit); the organism
everlasting (in his essence), the Word that divides
and unites. The universe was completed by his
existence, for he is to the universe what the bezel is
to the seal the bezel whereon is graven the signature
1 The 'most holy emanation' (d-faydu 'l-aqdas) is the eternal mani-
festation of the Essence to itself. This emanation is received by the essences
of things (al-cfyanu l-thdbita) in the plane of unity-in-plurality (wdhidiyya),
i.e., in the Divine knowledge where no distinctions exist. From one point
of view, God is never revealed except to Himself; from another, He is
revealed to 'recipient* modes of Himself, to each in accordance with its
* I have omitted a few lines here, to the effect that Man unites all
aspects of God the oneness of the Essence, the plurality of the Divine
attributes, and the world of nature. This truth, the author adds, cannot
be apprehended save by mystical perception. R.A.N.
1 i.e., the etymological explanation of the name insan is that Man
jnfnis QTyu'anis (knows or is familiar with) all things: the three Arabic
words are derived from the same root. R.A.N.
4 By bringing them into existence.
that the King seals on his treasuries. 1 Therefore He
named him a Vicegerent, because he guards the
creatures (of God) just as the King guards his
treasuries by sealing them; and so long as the King's
seal remains on them, none dares to open them save
by his leave. God made him His Vicegerent in the
guardianship of the universe, and it continues to be
guarded whilst this PERFECT MAN is there. Dost
not thou see that when he shall depart (to the next
world) and his seal shall be removed from the
treasury of this world, there shall no more remain
in it that which God stored therein, but the
treasure shall go forth, and every type shall
return to its (ideal) antitype, and all existence
shall be transferred to the next world and sealed
on the treasury of the next world for ever and
This was the knowledge of Seth, and it is his know-
ledge that replenishes every spirit that discourses on
such a theme except the spirit of the Seal (the Per-
fect Man), to whom replenishment comes from God
alone, not from any spirit; nay, his spirit replenishes
all other spirits. And though he does not apprehend
that of himself during the time of his manifestation in
the body, yet in respect of his real nature and rank he
knows it all essentially, just as he is ignorant thereof
in respect of his being compounded of elements. He
is the knowing one and the ignorant, for as the Origin
(God) is capable of endowment with contrary
attributes the Majestical, the Beautiful, the Inward,
the Outward, the First, the Last so is he capable
thereof, since he is identical (*qyri) with God, not
1 Man's heart (qalb) bears the impression of the Greatest Name of God
(i.e., the Essence) together with all the other Divine Names.
other than He. 1 Therefore he knows and knows not,
perceives and perceives not, beholds and beholds not. 2
Ibn ' Arab! further illustrates the interdependence of
God and man, the latter acting as the eye through which
God can see His own creation, in the following verses
from the Fusus in which the words within brackets
form the commentary of * Abdu '1-Razzaq al-Kashani:
'He praises me (by manifesting my perfections and
creating me in His form),
And I praise Him (by manifesting His perfections
and obeying Him).
How can He be independent when I help and aid
Him? (because the Divine attributes derive the
possibility of manifestation from their human
For that cause God brought me into existence.
And I know Him and bring Him into existence (in
my knowledge and contemplation of Him).
In the following passage Ibn 'Arabi contrasts the
finite God of religion with the infinite God of the
mystic or, it might be said, God as beheld by even the
most pious worshipper with God in His absoluteness,
that is God not limited by any man's experience of Him.
The believer praises the God who is in his form of
belief and with whom he has connected himself. He
praises none but himself, for his God is made by
himself, and to praise the work is to praise the maker
1 Man is Absolute Being limited by individualization (ta*ayyun). This
limitation however, is negative and unreal: it consists in failure to receive
all individualizations, to be endowed with all attributes, to be named with
all names. In so far as Man is a reality (haqq) he is not a human creature
of it: its excellence or imperfection belongs to its
maker. For this reason he blames the beliefs of others,
which he would not do, if he were just. Beyond doubt,
the worshipper of this particular God shows ignorance
when he criticizes others on account of their beliefs.
If he understood the saying of Junayd, 'The colour of
the water is the colour of the vessel containing it,' 1 he
would not interfere with the beliefs of others, but
would perceive God in every form and in every
belief. He has opinion, not knowledge : therefore God
said, *I am in My servant's opinion of Me,' i.e., 'I do
not manifest Myself to him save in the form of his
belief.' God is absolute or restricted, as He pleases;
and the God of religious belief is subject to limitations,
for He is the God who is contained in the heart of
His servant. But the absolute God is not contained by
anything, for He is the being of all things and the
being of Himself, and a thing is not said either to
contain itself or not to contain itself. 2
Our last passage from the Fusus deals in Ibn * Arabi's
typical scholastic manner with the subject of mercy:
Every one whom Mercy remembers is blessed, and
there is nothing that Mercy has not remembered.
Mercy's remembrance (dhikr) of things is identical
with her bringing them into existence: 8 therefore
every existent thing is an object of mercy. Do not let
thy perception of what I say be hindered by the
doctrine of everlasting punishment. Know, first, that
1 i.e., God is revealed in different forms of belief according to the
capacity of the believer. The mystic alone sees that He is One in all
forms, for the mystic's heart (qalb) is all-receptive: it assumes whatever
form God reveab Himself in, as wax takes the impression of the seal
*FufUf> 282. cf. 135.
cf. p. 98 fol.
Mercy's bringing into existence comprises all, so that
the pains of Hell were brought into existence by
Mercy. Then, secondly, Mercy has an effect in two
ways: (i) an essential effect, which is her bringing
into existence every *ayn (individual idea) without
regard to purpose or absence of purpose, or to what is
congruous or incongruous, for she was beholding
every *ayn as it existed in the knowledge of God
before its actual existence, and therefore she saw the
reality (haqq) 9 created in men's beliefs, as a poten-
tially existent *ayn, and showed mercy to it by bring-
ing it into existence (in their beliefs). Accordingly,
we have said that the reality created in men's beliefs
was the first object of mercy, after mercy was shown
by bringing into existence the individual believers.
(2) An effect produced by asking (stfal) : those who
are veiled from the truth ask God 1 to have mercy
upon them in their belief, but the mystics ask God
that Mercy may subsist in them, 2 and they ask for
mercy in God's name, saying, 'O God, have mercy
upon us!' That which has mercy upon them is the
subsistence of Mercy in them. 3
(B) AL-FUTUHAT AL-MAKKlYA
Ibn ' Arabl's al-Futuhdt al-Makkyla (Cairo A.H. 1293) or
The Meccan Revelations may be said to represent its
author's magnum opus. It is an enormous treatise
consisting of five hundred and sixty chapters and
embodying the core of Ibn 'Arabi's philosophico-
mystical doctrine. The author claims that he was com-
1 i.e., the finite Lord (rabb) who stands in a special and different
relation to every object of lordship (marbub) . cf. Fitfiif, 95.
8 i.e., the true mystic prays that he may be 'illumined* with the Divine
attribute of Mercy so as to become a raftm, which necessarily involves a
marhum, and to know himself as a mode of the absolute God who is in
reality both the rahim and the marhum.
manded to write this work on the orders of the Prophet
Muhammad himself whom he beheld seated on a throne
amidst angels, prophets and saints. He also claims that,
while, on one occasion, circumambulating the Ka'ba at
Mecca, he met a youth (symbolizing a celestial spirit)
who revealed to him the esoteric Temple hidden to
profane eyes, even as divine truth is hidden behind the
veils of popular religion. Without penetrating those
veils, man cannot perceive God's true nature. The youth
commanded Ibn 'Arab! to record the mysteries that
he would reveal to him. He led the philosopher into the
Ka'ba, and, appearing to him on a three-legged steed,
breathed into him the comprehension of all things.
That comprehension, however, came to him only
gradually, through a succession of different visions.
Some of these were obtained through an ascension to
heaven, an ascension that, both in its general plan and
in numerous details, we find repeated in Dante's
Divine Comedy. Ibn e Arabi's ascension proceeded through
seven stages corresponding to the astronomical heavens
from the Moon to Saturn. In each of these, he met the
various prophets who revealed to him certain sets of
mysteries. Thus in the first heaven, that of the Moon,
Adam instructed him on the significance of the divine
names; on changes in the material elements; on the
generation of all living things including man. In the
second heaven, that of Mercury, Jesus and John
revealed to him secrets about the performance of
miracles. In the subsequent heavens, prophets from
Joseph and Enoch to Moses and Abraham instructed
him in subjects ranging from the astronomical causes of
night and day and the interpretation of dreams to the
life hereafter. In the second part of the ascension, the
author reached the four mystic rivers, representing the
Pentateuch, the Book of Psalms, the Gospel and the
Qur* an. Farther still, he penetrated to the sphere of the
Fixed Stars in which dwelt the angelic spirits. After
crossing the sphere of the Zodiac, he reached the stool
upon which rest the feet of God, symbols of His justice
and mercy. Facing the throne of God, he learned the
mysteries of the cosmos, and, finally, beheld the utmost
secrets of the divine essence.
The visions obtained thanks to the help of the youth
met outside the Ka' ba form the contents of the Futuhut.
Ibn 'Arabi claimed that every word of that book
reached him by supernatural means.
The following extract from the Futuhut (iii, p. 365),
taken from Margaret Smith's Readings from the Mystics
of Islam (Luzac & Co., 1950), deals with the subject of
human knowledge, or apprehension, or truth which,
as will be remembered, has its being in Light (al-nur) :
The veils of darkness and light, by which God is
veiled from the world, are only what describes the
contingent, because it is in the midst and it looks
only to itself and it does not look to what is within the
veil. If the veils were raised from the contingent the
contingency would be revealed and the necessary
and the imaginable, because the veil is raised, but the
veils continue to be a concealment, and it must be
so. Consider this world in regard to the raising of the
veil, for He spoke of consuming, by the glory of His
countenance, the creature who apprehends it and
sometimes He says of Himself that the creatures can
see Him and not be consumed, declaring that the
veils are raised in the Vision, and the Vision itself is a
veil. /The eye of His creature does not see Him,' and
if men understood the meaning of this, they would
know themselves, and if they knew themselves, they
would know God : and if they really knew God, they
would be satisfied with Him and would think about
Him alone, not about the kingdom of the heavens
and the earth. If, indeed, they knew the truth of the
matter, they would realize that He is Himself the
Essence of the kingdom of the heavens and the earth.
If it were not for the Light, nothing at all could
be apprehended by the mind or the senses or
the imagination, which we also call by different
names. According to the common folk, the name is
given to the mind, and among the gnostics, to the
light of perception; when you apprehend what is
audible, you call the light which apprehends, hearing,
and when you apprehend what is visible, you call the
light seeing. Light involves a relationship, for appre-
hending what is apparent. Everyone who perceives
must have some relationship to the light, by which he
is made able to perceive, and everything which is
perceived has a relationship with God, Who is Light,
that is, all which perceives and all which is perceived.
In the following passages 1 of the Futuhdt Ibn c ArabI
describes 'the glorious triumph of the elect':
The blessed gather around the snow-white hill to
await the epiphany of the Lord. As they stand, each
in his respective grade and place and magnificently
arrayed, a dazzling light shines forth before which
they fall prostrate. Through their eyes into the in-
most recesses of their bodies and souls the light
penetrates, iso that each of the blessed becomes all
eye and ear and sees and hears with his entire spirit,
such is the virtue conferred on them by the light. Thus
are they prepared for the presence of the Almighty.
1 Quoted in Islam and the Divine Comedy t by Miguel Asin, translated by
Harold Sunderland. London, John Murray, 1926, pp. 157-9.
And then the Prophet appears before them, saying,
'Prepare, then, ye chosen, for the manifestation of
the Lord/ The three veils that enshroud the Al-
mighty the veils of glory, majesty and power are
drawn aside at His will, and the truth is revealed. . . .
This vision, although in itself one and the same so
far as the elect are concerned, has, nevertheless,
different aspects. Those prophets, who only acquired
their knowledge of God through the faith received
from God Himself and did not increase that know-
ledge by reason and contemplation, will behold the
vision through the eye of faith. The saint whose faith
in God was inspired by a prophet will see it through
the mirror of that prophet. If, however, he also gained
a knowledge of God through contemplation, then
will he have two visions, one of science and the other
of faith. . . . Those who obtained from God the mystic
intuition only will occupy a grade in glory apart from
all the other elect. To sum up, the three aspects which
God presents to the elect in these three categories are
graded thus: the prophets who received super-
natural inspiration from God excel those saints who
followed their teaching; while those who were neither
prophets nor their disciples but simply saints and
friends of God will, if they achieved the desired end
by rational contemplation, be inferior in the Beatific
Vision to the mystics, because reason, like a veil, will
intervene between them and the Divine truth, and
their efforts to raise it will be of no avail. In like
manner the followers of the prophets will be unable
to raise the veil of prophetic revelation. And so it is
that the Beatic Vision, pure and unalloyed, will be
the heritage exclusively of the prophets and the
mystics who, like the prophets, received Divine
inspiration on earth. . . .
In the Beatic Vision God manifests Himself to the
elect in a general epiphany, which, nevertheless,
assumes various forms corresponding to the mental
conceptions of God formed by the faithful on earth.
There is, then, one single epiphany, which is
multiple only by reason of the difference of forms in
which it is received. The Vision impregnates the
elect with Divine Light, each experiencing the Vision
according to the knowledge of the Divine dogma or
dogmas gained by him on earth.
The Divine light pervades the beings of the elect
and radiates from them, reflected as if by mirrors,
on everything around them. The spiritual enjoyment
produced by the contemplation of this reflection is
even greater than that of the Vision itself. For, at the
moment when they experience the Beatific Vision,
the elect are transported and, losing all consciousness,
cannot appreciate the joys of the Vision. Delight they
feel, but the very intensity of the delight makes it
impossible for them to realize it. The reflected light,
on the other hand, does not overpower them, and they
are thus able to participate in all its joys. . . .
Each knows his allotted grade and seeks it as a
child seeks its mother's breast, and iron, the lodestone.
To occupy or even aspire to a higher grade is impos-
sible. In the grade in which he is placed each sees the
realization of his highest hopes. He loves his own
grade passionately and cannot conceive that a higher
could exist. If it were not so, heaven would not be
heaven but a mansion of grief and bitter disillusion.
Nevertheless, those in the superior participate in the
enjoyment of the lower grades.
(c) KITAB AL-AJWIBA
In the following passages from Kitdb al-Ajwiba, (in
Margaret Smith's translation 1 ) Ibn 'Arab! deals again
with the subject of the true nature of God, treated
already in our first extract from the Fufiis (see pp. 68-9).
This subject of God's One-ness and All-ness is, of course,
of fundamental importance to Ibn 'Arabi's entire
philosophy, and he returns to it again and again. In
the following extract he also emphasizes the closeness,
nay the very identity, of phenomenal existence and
divine existence, and of God's 'dependence' upon His
creatures. He touches here also upon another of his
fundamental themes, namely that of the awakened
soul's realization that it is 'no other than God'.
He is and there is with Him no before or after, nor
above nor below, nor far nor near, nor union nor
division, nor how nor where nor place. He is now as
He was, He is the One without oneness and the
Single without singleness. ... He is the very existence
of the First and the very existence of the Last, and the
very existence of the Outward and the very existence
of the Inward. So that there is no first nor last nor
outward nor inward except Him, without those
becoming Him or His becoming them. He is not in a
thing nor a thing in Him, whether entering in or pro-
ceeding forth. It is necessary that you know Him, after
this fashion, not by learning ( 9 ilm) nor by intellect,
nor by understanding, nor by imagination, nor by
sense, nor by the outward eye nor by the inward eye,
nor by perception. By Himself He sees Himself and by
Himself He knows Himself. . . . His veil, that is, phen-
omenal existence, is but the concealment of His
existence in His oneness, without any attribute. . . .
There is no other and there is no existence for any
other, than He. ... He whom you think to be other
1 op. cit, p. 98.
than God, he is not other than God, but you do not
know Him and do not understand that you are seeing
Him. He is still Ruler as well as ruled, and Creator
as well as created. He is now as He was, as to His
creative power and as to His sovereignty, not requir-
ing a creature nor a subject. . . . When He called into
being the things that are, He was already endowed
with all His attributes and He is as He was then. In
His oneness there is no difference between what is
recent and what is original : the recent is the result of
His manifestation of Himself and the original is the
result of His remaining within Himself.
There is no existence save His existence. To this
the Prophet pointed when he said: 'Revile not the
world, for God is the world,' pointing to the fact that
the existence of the world is God's existence without
partner or like or equal. It is related that the Prophet
declared that God said to Moses: 'O My servant, I
was sick and thou didst not visit Me : I asked help of
thee and thou didst not give it to Me,' and other like
expressions. This means that the existence of the
beggar is His existence and the existence of the sick is
His existence. Now when this is admitted, it is
acknowledged that this existence is His existence
and that the existence of all created things, both
accidents and substances, is His existence, and when
the secret of one atom of the atoms is clear, the
secret of all created things, both outward and inward,
is clear, and you do not see in this world or the next,
anything except God, for the existence of these two
Abodes and their name and what they name, all of
them are assuredly He.
When the mystery of realizing that the mystic is
one with the Divine is revealed to you, you will
understand that you are no other than God and that
you have continued and will continue , . , without
when and without times. Then you will see all your
actions to be His actions and all your attributes to be
His attributes and your essence to be His essence,
though you do not hereby become He or He you, in
either the greatest or the least degree. 'Everything is
perishing save His Face, 5 that is, there is nothing
except His Face, 'then, withersoever you turn, there
is the Face of God.'
Just as he who dies the death of the body, loses all
his attributes, both those worthy of praise and those
worthy of condemnation alike, so in the spiritual
death all attributes, both those worthy of praise and
those to be condemned, come to an end, and in all
the man's states what is Divine comes to take the
place of what was mortal. Thus, instead of his
own essence, there is the essence of God and in place
of his own qualities, there are the attributes of God.
He who knows himself sees his whole existence to be
the Divine existence, but does not realize that any
change has taken place in his own nature or qualities.
For when you know yourself, your 'I-ness' vanishes
and you know that you and God are one and the
(D) THE TARJUMAN AL-ASHWAQ,
So far as I am aware, the only complete work of Ibn
'Arab! translated into English is the Tarjumdn al-
Ashwdq, which Prof. R. A. Nicholson published in
191 1. 1 In his Introduction, the translator explains the
lr The Tarjumdn At-Ashwaq, A Collection of Mystical Odes, by
Muyi'ddin Ibn Al-Arabi. Edited from three Manuscripts with a literal
version of the text and an abridged translation of the author's commen-
tary thereon by Reynold A. Nicholson, M.A., Litt.D, Lecturer in
Persian in the University of Cambridge, and formerly Fellow of Trinity
College. Oriental Translation Fund, New Series. Vol. XX London:
Royal Asiatic Society, 22 Albcmarle Street. 1911.
reasons that prompted him to undertake his task. 'The
fact', he says, 'that this book is accompanied by a
commentary, in which the author himself explains the
meaning of almost every verse, was the principal
motive that induced me to study it; its brevity was a
strong recommendation. . . .' But he also warns the
reader of the book's 'obscurity of style and the strange-
ness of its imagery'. As its redeeming features he
mentions, however, its 'many noble and striking
thoughts' and its passages 'of real beauty'.
When Ibn ' Arab! first brought his collection of odes
'Interpreter of Desires' before his public, these were
unaccompanied by any commentary. But the undis-
guisedly love character, not to say erotic element of the
odes shocked many of their readers who apparently
failed to recognize their true mystical nature. In
consequence, Ibn 'Arab! brought out a new edition of
his poems, accompanied by a new preface and by the
commentaries that, ever since, have formed an integral
part of the volume. His purpose in writing the poems as
well as the later commentaries emerges from his
Prefaces from which the following quotations are taken:
'Makinu'ddin had a young daughter, called Nizam
and surnamed 'Aynu'sh-Shams wa'1-Baha, who was
exceedingly beautiful and was renowned for her
asceticism and eloquent preaching. Ibn 'Arab! observed
the nobility of her nature, which was enhanced by the
society of her father and aunt.' (The latter, Fakhru'n-
Nisa bint Rustam, was a lady of very advanced age and
great devotion who had shared with Ibn 'Arab! her
readings of the Apostolic Traditions.) 'He celebrated
her in the poems contained in this volume, using the
erotic style and vocabulary, but he could not express
even a small part of the feelings roused in him by the
recollection of his love for her in past times. . . . '
The author continues : * Whenever I mention a name
in this book I always allude to her, and whenever I
mourn over an abode I mean her abode. In these
poems I always signify Divine influences and spiritual
revelations and sublime analogies, according to the
most excellent way which we (Sufis) follow . . . God
forbid that readers of this book and of my other poems
should think of aught unbecoming to souls that scorn
evil and to lofty spirits that are attached to the things
of Heaven! Amen: ... I have used the erotic style and
form of expression because men's souls are enamoured
of it, so that there are many reasons why it should
In spite of his warning to the reader of the nature and
purpose of his style a style employed by most Sufi
poets Ibn 'Arab! found himself attacked, and ulti-
mately felt constrained to add commentaries to the
poems, commentaries that, in most cases, are much
longer than the poems themselves. In a new Preface,
he explained the purpose of his commentaries in the
following words :
C I wrote this commentary on the Dlwdn entitled
Tarjumdn al-Ashwdq, which I composed at Mecca, at
the request of my friend al-Mas' ud Abu Muhammad
Badr b. ' Abdallah al-Habashi al-Khadim and al-Walad
al-Barr Shamsu'ddm Isma'il b. Sudakin an-Nuri in
the city of Aleppo. He (Shamsu'ddin) had heard some
theologian remark that the author's declaration in the
preface to the Tarjumdn was not true, his declaration,
namely, that the love-poems in this collection refer to
mystical sciences and realities. 'Probably', said the
critic, *he adopted this device in order to protect him-
self from the imputation that he, a man famous for
religion and piety, composed poetry in the erotic style. 5
Shamsu'ddm was offended by his observations and
repeated them to me. Accordingly, I began to write the
commentary at Aleppo, and a portion of it was read
aloud in my lodgings in the presence of the above-
mentioned theologian and other divines. ... I finished
it with difficulty and in an imperfect manner, for I was
in haste to continue my journey. . . . When my critic
heard it he said to Shamsu'ddm that he would never in
future doubt the good faith of any Sufis who should
assert that they attached a mystical signification to the
words used in ordinary speech; and he conceived an
excellent opinion of me and profited (by my writings).
This was the occasion of my explaining the Tarjumdn.*
For a reader used to the erotic character of so much
in Sufi poetry the mystical content of Ibn 'Arabi's odes
will reveal itself without undue difficulty. It is quite
obvious that Nizam was for the poet what Beatrice was
for Dante, namely an embodiment of divine love and
beauty, a symbol and a spiritual ideal. Yet though the
reader may instantly sense the mystical nature of the
poems, he would hardly seem likely to find the key to
their true meaning without Ibn 'Arabfs guidance. In
fact the poet admitted that in certain of his odes the
mystical meaning was not quite clear even to himself.
This is hardly surprising considering the fact that he
claimed to have written them in a state of ecstasy.
Though it cannot be asserted that the commentaries
always clarify the sense of the odes, without them, even
the reader accustomed to Sufi terminology might well
find himself defeated by the obscurity and complexity
of the poems.
A SELECTION FROM
1 . Would that I were aware whether they knew what
heart they possessed !
2. And would that my heart knew what mountain-pass
they threaded !
3. Dost thou deem them safe or dost thou deem them
4. Lovers lose their way in love and become entangled.
1. They', i.e. the Divine Ideas of which the hearts
(of gnostics) are passionately enamoured, and by which
the spirits are distraught, and for whose sake the godly
workers perform their works of devotion.
'What heart' : he refers to the perfect Muhammadan
heart, because it is not limited by stations. Nevertheless,
it is possessed by the Divine Ideas, for they seek it and it
seeks them. They cannot know that they possess it, for
they belong to its essence, inasmuch as it beholds in
them nothing except its own nature.
2. 'What mountain-pass they threaded', i.e. what
gnostic's heart they entered when they vanished from
mine. 'Mountain-pass' signifies a 'station', which is
fixed, in contrast to a 'state', which is fleeting.
3. The Divine Ideas, qua Ideas, exist only in the
existence of the seer; they are 'dead' in so far as the
seer is non-existent.
4. Lovers are perplexed between two opposite things,
for the lover wishes to be in accord with the Beloved and
also wishes to be united with Him, so that if the Beloved
wishes to be separated from the lover, the lover is in a
1. On the day of parting they did not saddle the full-
grown reddish-white camels until they had
mounted the peacocks upon them.
2. Peacocks with murderous glances and sovereign
power: thou wouldst fancy that each of them was
a Bilqis on her throne of pearls.
3. When she walks on the glass pavement thou seest
a sun on a celestial sphere in the bosom of Idris.
4. When she kills with her glances, her speech restores
to life, as tho' she, in giving life thereby, were
5. The smooth surface of her legs is (like) the Tora in
brightness, and I follow it and tread in its foot-
steps as tho' I were Moses.
6. She is a bishopess, one of the daughters of Rome,
unadorned: thou seest in her a radiant Goodness.
7. Wild is she, none can make her his friend; she has
gotten in her solitary chamber a mausoleum for
8. She has baffled everyone who is learned in our
religion, every student of the Psalms of David,
every Jewish doctor, and every Christian priest.
9. If with a gesture she demands the Gospel, thou
wouldst deem us to be priests and patriarchs and
10. The day when they departed on the road, I pre-
pared for war the armies of my patience, host
11. When my soul reached the throat (i.e. when I was
at the point of death), I besought that Beauty and
that Grace to grant me relief,
12. And she yielded may God preserve us from her
evil, and may the victorious king repel Iblis !
13. I exclaimed, when her she-camel set out to depart,
*O driver of the reddish-white camels, do not
drive them away with her!'
1. 'The full-grown camels', i.e. the actions inward
and outward, for they exalt the good word to Him who
is throned on high, as He hath said : 'And the good deed
exalts it' (Kor. xxxv, 11). 'The peacocks' mounted on
them are his loved ones: he likens them to peacocks
because of their beauty. The peacocks are the spirits of
those actions, for no action is acceptable or good or
fair until it hath a spirit consisting in the intention or
desire of its doer. He compares them to birds inasmuch
as they are spiritual and also for the variety of their
2. 'With murderous glances and sovereign power':
he refers to the Divine wisdom which accrues to a man
in his hours of solitude, and which assaults him with
such violence that he is unable to behold his personality,
and which exercises dominion over him.
'A Bilqis on her throne of pearls' : he refers to that
which was manifested to Gabriel and to the Prophet
during his night journey upon the bed of pearl and
jacinth in the terrestrial heaven, when Gabriel alone
swooned by reason of his knowledge of Him who
manifested Himself on that occasion. The author calls
the Divine wisdom 'Bilqis' on account of its being the
child of theory, which is subtle, and practice, which is
gross, just as Bilqis was both spirit and woman, since
her father was of the Jinn and her mother was of
3. The mention of Idris alludes to her lofty and
exalted rank. 'In the bosom of Idris', i.e. under his
control, in respect of his turning her wheresoever he
will, as the Prophet said: 'Do you bestow wisdom on
those who are unworthy of it, lest ye do it a wrong.'
The opposite case is that of one who speaks because he
is dominated by his feeling, and who is therefore under
the control of an influence. In this verse the author
calls attention to his puissance in virtue of a prophetic
heritage, for the prophets are masters of their spiritual
feelings, whereas most of the saints are mastered by
them. The sun is joined to Idris because the sun is his
sphere, and the Divine wisdom is described as 'walking'
(instead of 'running', etc.) because of her pride and
haughtiness, and because she moves in the feelings of
this heart and changes from one feeling to another with
a sort of absolute power.
4. 'She kills with her glances': referring to the
station of passing away in contemplation. 'Her speech
restores to life': referring to the completion of the
moulding of man when the spirit was breathed into him.
JShe is compared to Jesus in reference to Kor. xxxviii,
72, 'And I breathed into him of My spirit', or Kor.
xvi, 42, 'That We say to it "Be", and it is'.
5. 'Her legs' : referring to Bilqis and the glass pave-
ment (Kor. xxvii, 44).
'Is like the Tora in brightness 5 , because the Tora is
derived from the phrase, 'the stick produced fire'. The
four faces of the Tora, namely, the four Books (the
Koran, the Psalms, the Pentateuch, and the Gospel),
correspond to the fourfold light mentioned in Kor.
6. 'One of the daughters of Rome': this wisdom,
being of the race of Jesus is described as belonging to
the Roman Empire. 'Unadorned', i.e. she is of the
essence of unification and without any vestige of
adornment from the Divine Names, yet there shines
from her the 'radiance* of Absolute Goodness, viz. the
burning splendours which, if God were to remove the
veils of light and darkness, would consume the glories
of His face.
7. 'Wild is she, none can make her his friend', be-
cause contemplation of the Essence is a passing away, in
which, as as-Sayyari said, there is no pleasure. She is
'wild', inasmuch as noble souls desire to seize her, but
she does not show friendship to them, because no
relation exists between them and her.
'In her solitary chamber', i.e. in the heart. Her
solitude is her looking on herself, for God says, 'Neither
My earth nor My heaven contains Me, but I am con-
tained by the heart of My servant who is a believer' ;
and since the heart which contains this essential wisdom
of the race of Jesus is bare and empty of all attributes, it
is like a desert and she is like a wild animal. Then he
mentions the marble tomb of the Roman emperors,
that such a mausoleum may remind her of death, which
is the severance of union, and make her shun famili-
arity with the created world on account of this
8. The four Books (the Koran, the Psalms, the Tora,
and the Gospel) are here indicated by the mention of
those who study and expound them. All the sciences
comprised in the four Books point only to the Divine
Names and are incapable of solving a question that
concerns the Divine Essence.
9. If this spiritual being, forasmuch as she is of the
race of Jesus, appeals to the Gospel by way of justifying
it in anything which men's thoughts have falsely im-
puted to it, we humble ourselves before her and serve
her no less devotedly than do the heads of the Church,
because of her majesty and sovereign might.
10. 'Upon the road', i.e. the spiritual ascen-
11. 'To grant me relief : he means what the Prophet
meant by his saying, 'Lo, the breath of the Merciful
comes to me from the quarter of al-Yaman.' The writer
begs that the world of breaths may continually be
wafted from her to him along with the spiritual feelings.
The Arabs refer to this in their poetry, for they speak
of giving greetings and news to be delivered by the
winds when they blow.
12. 'May God preserve us from her evil!' He refers to
the Tradition 'I take refuge with Thee from Thy-
'The victorious king', i.e. thoughts of knowledge and
'Iblis', i.e. the thought of becoming one with God, for
this is a hard station, and few who attain to it escape
from the doctrines of an incarnation. It is the station
indicated in the Tradition, 'I am his ear and his eye',
13. He says, 'When this spiritual essence desired to
quit this noble heart on account of its (the heart's)
return from the station denoted by the words, "I have
an hour which I share with none save my Lord," to the
task imposed upon it of presiding over the phenomenal
worlds, for which purpose its gaze is directed towards
the Divine Names, the lofty aspiration on which this
spiritual essence was borne to the heart, took its depar-
ture.' He calls this aspiration 'her she-camel', and the
drivers of such aspirations are the angels who approach
nearest to God.
1 . My longing sought the Upland and my affliction the
Lowland, so that I was between Najd and Tihama.
2. They are two contraries which cannot meet: hence
my disunion will never be repaired.
3. What am I to do? What shall I devise? Guide me O
my censor, do not affright me with blame!
4. Sighs have risen aloft and tears are pouring over my
5. The camels, footsore from the journey, long for their
homes and utter the plaintive cry of the frenzied
6. After they have gone, my life is naught but annihila-
tion. Farewell to it and to patience !
1. 'The Upland', referring to God on His throne.
2. 'They are two contraries 5 , etc. : he says, 'Inasmuch
as the spiritual element in man is always governing the
body, it can never contemplate that which is uncom-
posed apart from its body and independently, as some.
Sufis and philosophers and ignorant persons declare.'
Hence the writer says, 'my disunion will never be re-
paired', i.e., 'I cannot become united with Him who is
pure and simple, and who resembles my essence and
reality. Therefore longing is folly, for this station is
unattainable, but longing is a necessary attribute of
love, and accordingly I cease not from longing.'
3. 'My censor', i.e. the blaming soul.
5. 'The camels', i.e. the actions or the lofty thoughts
since, in my opinion, such thoughts belong to the
class of actions on which the good words mount to the
throne of God. They 'long for their homes', i.e. for the
Divine Names from which they proceeded and by
which they are controlled.
6. 'My life is naught but annihilation': he says,
'When the lofty thoughts ascend to their goal I remain
in the state of passing away from passing away, for I
have gained the life imperishable which is not followed
by any opposite.' Accordingly, he bids farewell to
patience and to the mortal life, because he has quitted
the sensible world.
1. When they departed, endurance and patience
departed. They departed, although they were
dwelling in the core of my heart.
2. I asked them where the travellers rested at noon, and
I was answered, Their noonday resting-place is
where the shih and the ban trees diffuse a sweet
3. Then I said to the wind, 'Go and overtake them, for
they are biding in the shade of the grove,
4. And bear to them a greeting from a sorrowful man in
whose heart are sorrows because he is separated
from his people.'
I. 'They departed', i.e. the Divine Ideas. 'They were
dwelling in the core of my heart' : the Divine Ideas have
no relationship except with their object, which is God;
and God dwells in the heart, according to the Tradition
'Neither My earth nor My heaven contains Me, but I
am contained in the heart of My servant who believes.'
Since, however, no manifestation was vouchsafed to
him at this moment, the Ideas, being objects of vision,
disappeared, notwithstanding that God was in his heart.
2. 'I asked them*, i.e. the gnostics and the real
existences of the past Shaykhs who were my guides on
the mystic Way.
Their noonday resting-place', etc., i.e. they reposed
in every heart where the signs of longing appeared, for
shih denotes inclination (mqyl) and ban absence (bttd).
3. *I said to the wind', i.e. I sent a sign of longing
after them in the hope of causing them to return to me.
'In the shade of the grove', i.e. amongst the arak
trees, whereof the wood is used as a tooth-stick. He
refers to the Tradition 'The use of the tooth-stick
purifies the mouth and pleases the Lord', i.e. the Divine
Ideas are dwelling in the abode of purity.
1 . As I kissed the Black Stone, friendly women thronged
around me; they came to perform the circumam-
bulation with veiled faces.
2. They uncovered the (faces like) sunbeams and said
to me, 'Beware ! for the death of the soul is in thy
looking at us.
3. How many aspiring souls have we killed already at
al-Muhassab of Mina, beside the pebble-heaps,
4. And in Sarhat al-Wadi and the mountains of Rama
and Jam' and at the dispersion from c Arafat!
5. Dost not thou see that beauty robs him who hath
modesty, and therefore it is called the robber of
6. Our trysting-place after the circumambulation is at
Zamzam beside the midmost tent, beside the rocks.
7. There everyone whom anguish hath emanciated is
restored to health by the love-desire that perfumed
women stir in him.
8. When they are afraid they let fall their hair, so that
they are hidden by their tresses as it were by robes
1. 'As I kissed the Black Stone 5 , i.e. when the Holy
Hand was outstretched to me that I might take upon it
the Divine oath of allegiance, referring to the verse
'Those who swear fealty to thee swear fealty to God;
the hand of God is over their hands' (Kor. xlviii, 10).
'Friendly women', i.e. the angels who go round the
throne of God (Kor. xxxix, 75).
2. 'The death of the soul', etc.: these spirits say, 'Do
not look at us, lest thou fall passionately in love with us.
Thou wert created for God, not for us, and if thou wilt
be veiled by us from Him, He will cause thee to pass
away from thy existence through Him, and thou wilt
3. 'Have we killed', i.e. spirits like unto us, for the
above-mentioned angels who go round the Throne
have no relationship except with pilgrims circumam-
bulating the Ka'ba.
5. 'Beauty robs him who hath modesty', since the
vision of Beauty enraptures whosoever beholds it.
'The robber of virtues', i.e. it takes away all delight
in the vision of beauty from him who acts at the bidding
of the possessor of this beauty; and sometimes the
beauteous one bids thee to do that which stands between
thee and glorious things, inasmuch as those things are
gained by means of hateful actions: the Tradition
declares that Paradise is encompassed by things which
6. 'At Zamzam', i.e. in the station of the life which
thou yearnest for.
'Beside the midmost tent', i.e. the intermediate world
which divides the spiritual from the corporeal world.
'Beside the rocks', i.e. the sensible bodies in which the
holy spiritual beings take their abode. He means that
these spirits in these imaginary forms are metaphorical
and transient, for they vanish from the dreamer as soon
as he wakes and from the seer as soon as he returns to
his senses. He warns thee not to be deceived by the
manifestations of phenomenal beauty, inasmuch as all
save God is unreal, i.e. not-being like unto thyself;
therefore be His that He may be thine.
7. In the intermediate world whosoever loves these
spiritual beings dwelling in sensible bodies derives
refreshment from the world of breaths and scents
because the spirit and the form are there united, so
that the delight is double.
8. When these phantoms are afraid that their
absoluteness will be limited by their confinement in
forms, they cause thee to perceive that they are a veil
which hides something more subtle than what thou
seest, and conceal themselves from thee and quit these
forms and once more enjoy infinite freedom.
1. They (the women) mounted the howdahs on the
swift camels and placed in them the (damsels
like) marble statues and full moons,
2. And promised my heart that they should return;
but do the fair promise anything except deceit?
3. And she saluted with her henna-tipped fingers for
the leave-taking, and let fall tears that excited
the flames (of desire).
4. When she turned her back with the purpose of
making for al-Khawarnaq and as-Sadir.
5. I cried out after them, 'Perdition!' She answered
and said, 'Dost thou invoke perdition ?
6. Then invoke it not only once, but cry "Perdition !"
7. O dove of the arak trees, have a little pity on me!
for parting only increased thy moans,
8. And thy lamentation, O dove, inflames the longing
lover, excites the jealous,
9. Melts the heart, drives off sleep, and doubles our
desires and sighing.
10. Death hovers because of the dove's lamentation,
and we beg him to spare us a little while,
11. That perchance a breath from the zephyr of Hajir
may sweep towards us rain-clouds,
12. By means of which thou wilt satisfy thirsty souls;
but thy clouds only flee farther than before.
13. O watcher of the star, be my boon-companion, and
O wakeful spy on the lightning, be my nocturnal
14. O sleeper in the night, thou didst welcome sleep
and inhabit the tombs ere thy death.
15. But hadst thou been in love with the fond maiden,
thou wouldst have gained, through her, happi-
ness and joy,
1 6. Giving to the fair (women) the wines of intimacy,
conversing secretly with the suns, and flattering
the full moons.
i. 'The camels' are the human faculties, 'the how-
dahs' are the actions which they are charged to perform,
'the damsels' in the howdahs are the mystical sciences
and the perfect sorts of knowledge.
3. He says, 'This Divine subtlety, being acquired and
not given directly, is subject to a change produced by
contact with phenomena' ; this change he indicates by
speaking of 'her henna-tipped fingers', as though it
were the modification of unity by a kind of association.
Nevertheless, her staying in the heart is more desirable
than her going, for she protects the gnostic as long as
she is there.
'And let fall tears', etc.: she let loose in the heart
sciences of contemplation which produced an intense
. 4. 'Al-Khawarnaq and as-Sadir', i.e. the Divine
5. Terdition!' i.e. death to the phenomenal world
now that these sublime mysteries have vanished from it.
'Dost thou invoke perdition?' i.e. why dost thou not
see the face of God in everything, in light and darkness,
in simple and composite, in subtle and gross, in order
that thou mayst not feel the grief of parting.
6. 'Cry "Perdition!" many times' (cf. Kor. xxv, 15),
i.e. not only in this station but in every station in which
thou art placed, for thou must bid farewell to every one
of them, and thou canst not fail to be grieved, since,
whenever the form of the Truth disappears from thee,
thou imaginest that He has left thee; but He has not
left thee, and it is only thy remaining with thyself that
veils from thee the vision of that which pervades the
whole of creation.
7. 'O dove of the arak trees': he addresses holy
influences of Divine pleasure which have descended
'Have a little pity on me!' i.e. pity my weakness and
inability to attain unto thy purity.
'For parting only increased thy moans': he says,
'Inasmuch as thy substance only exists through and in
me, and I am diverted from thee by the dark world of
phenomena which keeps me in bondage, for this cause
thou art lamenting thy separation from me/
8. 'And thy lamentation 5 , etc., i.e. we who seek the
unbounded freedom of the celestial world should weep
more bitterly than thou.
'Excites the jealous' : jealousy arises from regarding
others, and he who beholds God in everything feels no
jealousy, for God is One; but since God manifests
Himself in various forms, the term 'jealousy' is appli-
cable to Him.
10. 'Death', i.e. the station in which the subtle
principle of Man is severed from its governance of this
dark body for the sake of the Divine subtleties which
are conveyed to it by the above-mentioned holy
11. 'Hajir' denotes here the most inaccessible veil of
the Divine glory. No phenomenal being can attain to
the immediate experience thereof, but scents of it blow
over the hearts of gnostics in virtue of a kind of amorous
'Rain-clouds', i.e. sciences and diverse sorts of know-
ledge belonging to the most holy Essence.
13. 'O watcher of the star', in reference to keeping in
mind that which the sciences offer in their various
'O wakeful spy on the lightning' : the lightning is a
locus of manifestation of the Essence. The author says,
addressing one who seeks it, 'Our quest is the same, be
my comrade in the night.'
14. This verse may be applied either to the heedless
or to the unconscious.
15. 'The fond maiden', i.e. the Essential subtlety
which is the gnostic's object of desire.
'Through her': although She is unattainable, yet
hrough her manifestation to thee all that thou hast
is baptized for thee, and thy whole kingdom is dis-
played to thee by that Essential form.
1 6. 'Conversing secretly with the suns', etc., in
reference to the Traditions which declare that God will
be seen in the next world like the sun in a cloudless sky
or like the moon when she is full.
1 . My lovesickness is from her of the lovesick eyelids :
console me by the mention of her, console me !
2. The grey doves fluttered in the meadows and
wailed : the grief of these doves is from that which
3. May my father be the ransom of a tender playful
girl, one of the maidens guarded in howdahs,
advancing swayingly among the married women !
4. She rose, plain to see, like a sun, and when she
vanished she shone in the horizon of my heart.
5. O ruined abodes at Rama! How many fair damsels
with swelling breasts have they beheld!
6. May my father and I myself be the ransom of a
God-nurtured gazelle which pastures between
my ribs in safety !
7. The fire thereof in that place is light: thus is the
light the quencher of the fires.
8. O my two friends, bend my reins aside that I may
see the form of her abode with clear vision.
9. And when ye reach the abode, descend, and there,
my two companions, weep for me,
10. And stop with me a little while at the ruins, that we
may endeavour to weep, nay, that I may weep
indeed because of that which befell me.
11. Passion shoots me without arrows, passion slays me
without a spear.
12. Tell me, will ye weep with me when I weep beside
her? Help me, oh help me to weep!
13. And rehearse to me the tale of Hind and Lubna and
Sulayma and Zaynab and c Inan !
14. Then tell me further of Hajir and Zarus, give me
news of the pastures of the gazelles !
15. And mourn for me with the poetry of Qays and
Lubna, and with Mayya and the afflicted
1 6. Long have I yearned for a tender maiden, endowed
with prose and verse, having a pulpit, eloquent,
1 7. One of the princesses from the land of Persia, from
the most glorious of cities, from Isfahan.
1 8. She is the daughter of ' Iraq, the daughter of my
Imam, and I am her opposite, a child of Yemen.
19. O my lords, have ye seen or heard that two oppo-
sites are ever united !
20. Had you seen us at Rama proffering each other
cups of passion without fingers,
2 1 . Whilst passion caused sweet and joyous words to be
uttered us without a tongue,
22. You would have seen a state in which the under-
standing disappears Yemen and 'Iraq em-
23. Falsely spoke the poet who said before my time
(and he has pelted me with the stones of his
24. *O thou who givest the Pleiades in marriage to
Suhayl, God bless thee! how should they meet?
25. The Pleiades are in the north whenever they rise,
and Suhayl whenever he rises is in the south.'
i . 'Her of the lovesick eyelids' : he means the Presence
desired by gnostics. Although she is too sublime to be
known and loved, she inclines toward them in mercy
and kindness and descends into their hearts by a sort of
'Console me by the mention of her' : there is no cure
for his malady but remembrance. He says 'Console me*
twice, i.e. by my remembrance of God and by God's
remembrance of me (cf. Kor. ii, 147).
2. 'The grey doves', i.e. the spirits of the intermediate
'And wailed', because their souls cannot join the
spirits which have been released from imprisonment in
this earthly body.
3. 'A tender playful girl', i.e. a form of Divine wis-
dom, essential and holy, which fills the heart with joy.
'One of the maidens guarded in howdahs' : she is a
virgin, because none has ever known her before; she
was veiled in modesty and jealousy during all her
journey from the Divine Presence to the heart of this
'The married women', i.e. the forms of Divine
wisdom already realized by gnostics who preceded him.
4. 'And when she vanished', etc., i.e. when she set in
the world of evidence she rose in the world of the
5. 'O ruined abodes', i.e. the bodily faculties.
'At Rama', from (he sought), implying that their
search is vain.
'How many fair damsels', etc., i.e. subtle and Divine
forms by which the bodily faculties were annihilated.
7. The natural fires are extinguished by the heavenly
light in his heart.
8. 'The form of her abode', i.e. the Presence from
which she issued forth. He seems to desire the station of
Divine contemplation, since wisdom is not desired
except for the sake of that to which it leads.
9. 'Weep for me', because this Presence annihilates
everyone who attains unto her and beholds her.
10. That I may weep', etc., i.e. for the loss of the loved
ones and of everything except the ruins of their abode.
n. 'Without arrows', i.e. from a distance.
12. 'Without a spear', i.e. near at hand.
13. Hind was the mistress of Bishr, and Lubna of
Qays b. al-Dharih; 'Inan was a slave-girl belonging to
an-Natifi; Zaynab was one of the mistresses of 'Umar
b. Abi Rabi* a ; Sulayma was a slave girl whom the author
had seen: he says that she had a lover. He interprets
the names of all these women mystically, e.g. Hind is
explained as an allusion to the Fall of Adam, and
Zaynab as signifying removal from the station of
saintship to that of prophecy.
1 6. He describes this essential knowledge as endowed
with prose and verse, i.e. absolute in respect of her
essence, but limited in respect of possession.
'A pulpit', i.e. the ladder of the Most Beautiful
Names. To climb this ladder is to be invested with the
qualitites of these Names.
'Eloquent', referring to the station of Apostleship.
The author adds: 'I allude enigmatically to the
various kinds of mystical knowledge which are under
the veil of an-Nizam, the maiden daughter of our
17. 'One of the princesses', on account of her
asceticism, for ascetics are the kings of the earth.
1 8. "Iraq' indicates origin, i.e. this knowledge comes
of a noble race.
'A child of Yemen', i.e. in respect of faith and wisdom
and the breath of the Merciful and tenderness of heart.
These qualities are the opposite of what is attributed to
'Iraq, viz. rudeness and severity and infidelity, whereas
the opposite of 'Iraq itself is not Yemen, but the
Maghrib, and the opposite of Yemen itself is not * Iraq,
but Syria. The antithesis here is between the qualities
of the Beloved and those of the lover.
19. 'Two opposites', referring to the story of Junayd,
when a man sneezed in his presence and said, 'God be
praised!' (Kor. i, i). Junayd said, completing the verse,
'Who is the Lord of created beings.' The man replied,
'And who is the created being, that he should be
mentioned in the same breath with God?' 'O my
brother,' said Junayd, 'the phenomenal, when it is
joined to the Eternal, vanishes and leaves no trace
behind. When He is there, thou art not, and if thou art
there, He is not.'
22. 'Yemen and 'Iraq', etc., i.e. the identification of
the qualities of Wrath and Mercy. He refers to the
saying of Abu Sa* id al-Kharraz, who on being asked
how he knew God, answered, 'By His uniting two
opposites, for He is the First and the Last and the
Outward and the Inward' (Kor. Ivii, 3).
24. 'The Pleiades', i.e. the seven attributes demon-
strated by scholastic philosophers.
'Suhayl', i.e. the Divine Essence.
25. 'In the north', i.e. in the world of phenomena.
The Divine attributes are manifested in Creation, but
the Divine Essence does not enter into Creation.
1. Between al-Naqa and La* la* are the gazelles of
2. Grazing there in a dense covert of tangled shrubs,
3. New moons never rose on the horizon of that hill
4. But I wished, from fear, that they had not risen.
5- And never appeared a flash from the lightning of
6. But I desired, for my feeling's sake, that it had not
7. O my tears, flow ! O mine eye, cease not to shed tears !
8. O my sighs, ascend ! O my heart, split !
9. And thou, O camel-driver, go slowly, for the fire is
between my ribs.
10. From their copious flow through fear of parting
my tears have all been spent,
1 1. So that, when the time of starting comes, thou wilt
not find an eye to weep.
12. Set forth, then, to the valley of the curving sands,
their abode and my death-bed
13. There are those whom I love, beside the waters of
14. And call to them, 'Who will help a youth burning
with desire, one dismissed,
15. Whose sorrows have thrown him into a bewilder-
ment which is the last remnant of ruin?
1 6. O moon beneath a darkness, take from him some-
thing and leave something,
17. And bestow on him a glance from behind yonder
1 8. Because he is too weak to apprehend the terrible
19. Or flatter him with hopes, that perchance he may
be revived or may understand.
20. He is a dead man between al-Naqa and La e la e .
2 1 . For I am dead of despair and anguish, as though I
were fixed in my place.
22. The East Wind did not tell the truth when it
brought cheating phantoms.
23. Sometimes the wind deceives when it causes thee to
hear what is not (really) heard,
1 . 'Between al-Naqa and La' la* , etc., i.e. between the
hill of white musk, on which is the vision of God, and
the place of frenzied love for Him, are diverse sorts of
knowledge connected with the stations of abstraction.
2. 'In a dense covert of tangled shrubs', i.e. the world
of phenomenal admixture and interdependence.
3. 'New moons', i.e. Divine manifestations.
4. 'From fear', i.e. from fear that the beholder might
pass away in himself from himself, and that his essence
might perish, whereas his object is to continue sub-
sistent through God and for God; or from fear that he
should imagine the manifestation to be according to the
essential nature of God in Himself (which is impossible),
and not according to the nature of the recipient. The
former belief, which involves the comprehension of
God by the person to whom the manifestation is made,
agrees with the doctrine of some speculative theo-
logians, who maintain that our knowledge of God and
Gabriel's knowledge of Him and His knowledge of
Himself are the same. How far is this from the truth!
5. 'A flash from the lightning of that fire-stone', i.e.
an inanimate, phenomenal, and earthly manifestation.
9. 'O camel-driver', i.e. the voice of God calling the
aspirations to Himself.
'The fire', i.e. the fire of Love.
lo-n. He says that his eyes have been melted away
by the tears which he shed in anticipation of parting.
12. 'To the valley of the curving sands', i.e. the
station of mercy and tenderness.
'My death-bed', because the Divine mercy causes
him to pass away in bewilderment.
13. 'Beside the waters of al-Ajra' : because this mercy
is the result of painful self-mortification,
14- 'One dismissed', i.e. one who has come to him-
self again after contemplation, according to the tradi-
tion that God says, after having shown Himself to His
servants in Paradise, 'Send them back to their
1 6. 'A darkness', i.e. the forms in which the mani-
festation takes place.
'Take from him something', etc., i.e. take from him
whatever is related to himself, and leave whatever is not
related to himself, so that only the Divine Spirit may
remain in him.
21. Tor I am dead of despair and anguish', i.e. I
despair of attaining the reality of that which I seek, and
I grieve for the time spent in a vain search for it.
'As though I were fixed in my place', i.e. I cannot
escape from my present state, inasmuch as it is without
place, quantity, and quality, being purely transcend-
22. 'Cheating phantoms', i.e. the similes and images
in which God, who has no like, is presented to us by the
world of breaths.
1. May my father be the ransom of the boughs sway-
ing to and fro as they bend, bending their tresses
towards the cheeks!
2. Loosing plaited locks of hair; soft in their joints and
3. Trailing skirts of haughtiness; clad in embroidered
garments of beauty;
4. Which from modesty grudge to bestow their loveli-
ness; which give old heirlooms and new gifts;
5. Which charm by their laughing and smiling
mouths; whose lips are sweet to kiss;
6. Whose bare limbs are dainty; which have swelling
breasts and offer choice presents;
7. Luring ears and souls, when they converse, by their
8. Covering their faces for shame, taking captive
thereby the devout and fearing heart;
9. Displaying teeth like pearls, healing with their
saliva one who is feeble and wasted ;
10. Darting from their eyes glances which pierce a
heart experienced in the wars and used to
1 1 . Making rise from their bosoms new moons which
suffer no eclipse on becoming full;
12. Causing tears to flow as from rain-clouds, causing
sighs to be heard like the crash of thunder.
13. O my two comrades, may my life-blood be the
ransom of a slender girl who bestowed on me
favours and bounties !
14. She established the harmony of union, for she is our
principle of harmony: she is both Arab and
foreign; she makes the gnostic forget.
15. Whenever she gazes, she draws against thee tren-
chant swords, and her front teeth show to thee a
1 6. O my comrades, halt beside the guarded pasture of
Hajir! Halt, halt, O my comrades,
17. That I may ask where their camels have turned, for
I have plunged into places of destruction and
1 8. And scenes known to me and unknown, with a
swift camel which complains of her worn hoofs
and of deserts and wildernesses,
19. A camel whose flanks are lean and whose rapid
journeying caused her to lose her strength and
the fat of her hump,
20. Until I brought her to a halt in the sandy tract of
Hajir and saw she-camels followed by young ones
21. They were led by a moon of awful mien, and I
clasped him to my ribs for fear that he should
22. A moon that appeared in the circumambulation,
and while he circumambulated me I was not
circumambulating anyone except him.
23. He was effacing his footprints with the train of his
robe, so that thou wouldst be bewildered even
if thou wert the guide tracing out his track.
1. 'My father', i.e. Universal Reason.
'The boughs', i.e. the Attributes which bear Divine
knowledge to gnostics and mercifully incline towards
2. 'Locks of hair', i.e. hidden sciences and mysteries.
They are called 'plaited' in allusion to the various
degrees of knowledge.
'Soft', in respect of their graciously inclining to us.
'In their joints and bends', in reference to the con-
junction of real and phenomenal qualities.
3. 'Trailing skirts', etc., because of the loftiness of
'Clad in embroidered garments', etc., i.e. appearing
in diverse beautiful shapes.
4. 'Which from modesty', etc., referring to the
Tradition, 'Do not bestow wisdom except on those who
are worthy of it, lest ye do it a wrong', since contem-
plation is not vouchsafed to everyone.
'Old heirlooms', i.e. knowledge demonstrated by
proofs derived from another.
'New gifts', i.e. knowledge of which the proof is
bestowed by God and occurs to one's own mind as the
result of sound reflection.
8. 'Covering their faces for shame', i.e. they are
ashamed to reveal themselves to those whose hearts are
generally occupied with something other than God, viz.
the ordinary believers described in Kor. ix, 103.
9. 'Teeth like pearls', i.e. the sciences of Divine
10. 'Experienced in the wars', etc., i.e. able to dis-
tinguish the real from the phenomenal in the simi-
litudes presented to the eye.
n. 'From their bosoms', i.e. from the Divine attri-
'New moons', i.e. a manifestation in the horizon.
'Which suffer no eclipse', i.e. they are not subject to
any natural lust that veils them from the Divine Ideas.
13. 'A slender girl', i.e. the single, subtle, and essen-
tial knowledge of God.
14. 'She established the harmony of union', i.e. this
knowledge concentrated me upon myself and united me
with my Lord.
'Arab', i.e. it caused me to know myself from myself.
'Foreign', i.e. it caused me to know myself from God,
because the Divine knowledge is synthetic and does not
admit of analysis except by means of comparison; and
since comparison is impossible, therefore analysis is
impossible; whence it follows that synthesis also is
impossible, and I only use the latter term in order to
convey to the reader's intelligence a meaning that is
not to be apprehended save by immediate feeling and
- 'Forget', i.e. his knowledge and himself.
15. *A dazzling levin', i.e. a manifestation of the
Essence in the state of beauty and joy.
1 6. 'O my comrades': he means his understanding
and his faith.
17. Their camels', i.e. the aspirations which carry
the sciences and subtle essences of man to their goal.
1 8. 'A swift camel', i.e. an aspiration in himself.
19. 'Whose rapid journeying', etc., i.e. this aspiration
was connected with many aspects of plurality which
disappeared in the course of its journey towards
20. 'In the sandy tract of Hajir', i.e. a state which
enabled me to discriminate between phenomena and
prevented me from regarding anything except what this
state revealed to me.
'She-camels followed by young ones', i.e. original
sciences from which other sciences are derived.
21. 'A moon of awful mien', i.e. a manifestation of
Divine majesty in the heart.
23. 'His footprints', i.e. the evidences which He
adduced as a clue to Himself.
'The train of his robe', i.e. His uniqueness and in-
'So that thou wouldst be bewildered', i.e. our
knowledge of Him is ignorance and bewilderment and
helplessness. He says that in order that gnostics may
recognize the limits of their knowledge of God.
1. Who will show me her of the dyed fingers? Who will
show me her of the honeyed tongue?
2. She is one of the girls with swelling breasts who
guard their honour, tender, virgin, and beautiful.
3. Full moons over branches: they fear no waning.
4. In a garden of my body's country is a dove perched
on a ban bough,
5. Dying of desire, melting with passion, because that
which befell me hath befallen her;
6. Mourning for a mate, blaming Time, who shot her
unerringly, as he shot me.
7. Parted from a neighbour and far from a home!
Alas, in my time of severance, for my time of
8. Who will bring me her who is pleased with my
torment? I am helpless because of that with which
she is pleased.
i. 'Her of the dyed fingers': he means the pheno-
menal power by which the Eternal power is hidden
according to the doctrine of some scholastic theo-
logians. He says, 'Who will impart to me the truth of
this matter, so far as knowledge thereof is possible?'
He wishes to know whether God manifests Himself
therein or not. The author denies such manifestation,
but some mystics and the Mu'tazilites allow it, while
the Sufis among the Ash'arites leave the question
4. 'A dove', etc., i.e. a spiritual Prophetic essence
which appeared in the incommunicable self-subsistence.
He refers to the belief of some Sufis that Man cannot be
invested with the Divine Self-subsistence.
5. 'Dying of desire', etc., with reference to Kor. iii,
29, 'Follow me, that God may love you? and Kor. v, 59, 'He
loves them and they love Him. 9
6. 'A mate', i.e. the Universal Form.
'Blaming Time,' because the forms belonging to the
world of similitude are limited by Time in that
7. 'A neighbour', i.e. a gnostic who became veiled
from his Lord by his 'self ' after having subsisted by his
Lord and for the sake of his Lord.
*A home/ i.e. his natural constitution, whenever he
returns to it.
1. Oh, is there any way to the damsels bright and fair?
And is there anyone who will show me their
2. And can I halt at night beside the tents of the
curving sand? And can I rest at noon in the shade
of the arak trees ?
3. The tongue of inward feeling spoke, informing me
that she says, 'Wish for that which is attainable.'
4. My love for thee is whole, O thou end of my hopes,
and because of that love my heart is sick.
5. Thou art exalted, a full moon rising over the heart, a
moon that never sets after it hath risen.
6. May I be thy ransom, O thou who art glorious in
beauty and pride ! for thou hast no equal amongst
7. Thy gardens are wet with dew and thy jpses are
blooming, and thy beauty is passionately loved:
it is welcome to all.
8. Thy flowers are smiling and thy boughs are fresh:
wherever they bend, the winds bend towards
9. Thy grace is tempting and thy look piercing : armed
with it the knight, affliction, rushes upon me.
I. The damsels bright and fair', i.e. the knowledge
derived from the manifestations of His Beautiful Name.
2. 'The tents of the curving sand', i.e. the stations of
The shade of the arak trees', i.e. contemplation of the
pure and holy Presence.
3. This station is gained only by striving and sincere
application, not by wishing. Travel that thou mayst
5. 'A moon that never sets', etc. : he points out that
God never manifests Himself to anything and then
becomes veiled from it afterwards.
7. 'Thy gardens are wet with dew', i.e. all Thy
creatures are replenished by the Divine qualities which
are revealed to them.
'Thy roses are blooming', in reference to a particular
manifestation which destroys every blameworthy
'It is welcome', i.e. it is loved for its essence.
8. 'Thy flowers', etc., i.e. Thy knowledge is welcome
to the heart.
'Thy boughs', i.e. the spiritual influences which
convey Thy knowledge.
1. Tayba hath a gazelle from whose witching eye
(glances like) the edge of a keen blade are
2. And at 'Arafat I perceived what she desired and I
was not patient,
3. And on the night of Jam' we had union with her,
such as is mentioned in the proverb.
4. The girl's oath is false : do not confide in that which
5. The wish I gained at Mina, would that it might
continue to the last hour of my life !
6. In La' la* I was transported with love for her who
displays to thee the splendour of the bright moon.
7. She shot Rama and inclined to dalliance at as-Saba
and removed the interdiction at al-Hajir.
8. And she watched a lightning-gleam over Bariq
with a glance swifter than a thought that passes
in the mind.
9. And the waters of al-Ghada were diminished by a
blazing fire which passion kindled within his
10. And she appeared at the ban tree of an-Naqa and
chose (for her adornment) the choicest of its
superb hidden pearls.
11. And at Dhat al-Ada she turned backward in dread
of the lurking lion.
12. At Dhu Salam she surrendered my life-blood to her
murderous languishing glance.
13. She stood on guard at the guarded pasture and bent
at the sand-bend, swayed by all-cancelling
14. And at* Alij she managed her affair (in such a way)
that she might escape from the claw of the bird.
15. Her Khawarnaq rends the sky and towers beyond
the vision of the observer.
I. 'Tayba (Medina) hath a gazelle', referring to a
Muhammadan degree, i.e. a spiritual presence belong-
ing to the station of Muhammad.
3. *On the night of Jam' ' : he says, 'we abode in the
station of proximity and He concentrated me upon
'In the proverb', namely, c He did not salute until he
bade farewell' i.e. they parted as soon as they met.
4. He says, Tut no trust in an Attribute that is not
self-subsistent and depends on One who may not
always accomplish its desires.'
7. 'She shot Rama,' i.e. she shot that which she was
seeking, because she regarded the thing as being the
opposite of what it was and of what she believed it to be.
'And inclined to dalliance at as-Saba', i.e. she desired
to manifest herself.
8. 'A lightning-gleam', i.e. a locus of manifestation
for the Essence.
10. 'And chose', etc., i.e. she revealed herself in the
most lovely shape.
11. 'Dhat al-Ada', i.e. the place of illumination.
'She turned backward', etc., i.e. she returned to her
natural world for fear that that fierce light should
12. Gnostics are annihilated by their vision of the
Truth, but this does not happen to the vulgar, because
they lack knowledge of themselves.
13. 'The guarded pasture', i.e. the station of Divine
glory. 'Bent', i.e. inclined with Divine mercy. This
refers to her investing herself with Divine qualities.
14. 'That she might escape', etc., i.e. she was un-
willing to receive from the spirits, for she wished to
receive only from God, by intuitive feeling, not by
cognition. God sometimes bestows His gifts by the
mediation of the exalted spirits, and sometimes im-
15. 'Her Khawarnaq', i.e. the seat of her kingdom.
i. Approach the dwelling of dear ones who have taken
covenants may clouds of incessant rain pour
2. And breathe the scent of the wind over against their
land, in desire that the (sweet) airs may tell thee
where they are.
3. I know that they encamped at the ban tree of Idam,
where the arar plants grow and the shih and the
1. 'Dear ones', i.e. the exalted spirits.
'Covenants,' i.e. the Divine covenants taken from the
spirits of the prophets.
'Clouds of incessant rain', i.e. knowledge descending
upon them continuously.
2. 'And breathe', etc., referring to the Tradition, 'I
feel the breath of the Merciful from the quarter of
3. 'At the ban tree of Idam', i.e. the station of
Absolute purity at the end of the journey to God.
'The arar plants', etc., i.e. sweet spiritual influences
proceeding from lovely spiritual beings.
Active and passive, 23, 42-44
Adam, 56-57, 77
Affifi, A. E., 7, 22, 51
Agent Intellect, 36
Aleppo, 86, 87
Analytical Psychology, 40
Angels, 38, 59, 72, 77
Archetypal Dreams, 40-42
Aristotle and Aristotelian, 17, 19,
20, 23, 30, 34, 36, 39, 42, 43
Ash' antes, 18, 22, 29, 48
Asia Minor, 16
Atomic science, 20
Atomists, Muslim, 19, 29
Attributes, of God, 28, 30, 38, 40,
52, 53. 73> 74> 83, 84
Bcatic Vision, 80-8 1
Beauty, 64-66, 87
Body, and soul, 33-34
Books of Ibn 'Arabi, 7, 16, 24-25,
Carmathians, 22, 61
Cause and effect, 42-44
Christian doctrine, 15, 19, 25, 28,
Dante, 26, 62, 77, 87
Desire, as opposite to free will, 49
Disharmony, impossible in realm
of spirit, 43-44
Dualism, 23, 24, 34, 42, 49, 56, 58
Duality, of God and creatures, 31,
32; of good and evil, 44; in the
Qur'an, 23; no room for d., 24,
Electricity, positive and evil quali-
ties of, 45
Encyclopaedists, Muslim, 23
Essence, divine, 28, 30-33, 38, 40,
62, 64, 68, 70, 84
Essence, of intelligence, 39; of the
many, 31, 68; of prototypes, 31 ;
pure, 52-53; as quality, 33;
timeless and spaceless, 20
Evil, 84; hides some good, 45; and
human fate, 50; denotes lack of
positive quality, 44; is not an
objective reality, 44; necessary
for perfection, 46; spiritually
Existence and non-existence, abso-
lute, 48; due to laws, 30; neces-
sary and potential, 30; rooted in
Fakhru'n-Nisa bint Rustam, 85
Farabi, al, 7, 18, 65
Fana, is awareness of the oneness of
all, 52; is not 'passing away of
self', 51-52; stages of, 52-53
Fate, not pre-determined but self-
First Cause, 18, 20, 27
First Intellect, 57
Firuzabadi, Majdu '1-Din, 25
Fleming, Sir Alexander, 45
Free will, 24, 48-51; not identical
with desire, 49; craves spiritual
FutCuiat, al-, origins of, 76-78
Ghazali, -al, 7, 18, 19, 29, 35, 60, 61
God, not the cause of creation, 27,
42; of Christianity, 58; becomes
conscious of Himself through the
Logos , 55; consciousness of, 3;
and fana, 51-54; has no free will,
50; finite and infinite, 27, 74;
decrees both good and evil
actions, 5; and heaven and hell,
62; and human knowledge, 7;
and inanimate objects, 38;
immanent in both cause and
effect, 43; incarnation of, 25, 58;
and Jesus Christ, 56; knows Him-
self perfectly in the Perfect Man,
55, 71-75; synonymous with law,
29; and love, 63-66, 87; and
man's ability to differentiate, 47 ;
and man's consciousness, 38; and
man's unwareness of, 43, 78;
moral commands of, 48; in-
different to morality, 46-47; of
Muslim philosophers, 17, 18; and
the mystics, 32, 33, 51-54, 68,
74-76, 80, 83; nonduality of, 23;
as Perfect Light, 37, 79, 80, 81 ;
and the prophets, 57, 80; ration-
ality of, 38; unity of, 31, 69,
82-84; universe of G. must
contain imperfections, 45; will
and thought of, 18; as stone, 39
Good and evil, 44, 45, 47, 48, 50
Guarded Table, synonym for Uni-
versal Soul, 45
Hallaj, -al, 22, 31, 64
Heaven, 61-63, 81
Hell, 61-63, 76
Hierarchic system, 56, 59, 80
Holy Spirit, 57
Howell, James, 66
Ibn Masarra, 22
Ibn Rushd, 7, 19, 35
Ibn SIna, 7, 18, 35, 63
Ikhwan al-Safa, 23, 40
Images (imaginings), 40, 41
Inanimate objects, 38-39
Inward eye, 37, 41
Iraq, 15, 1 6
Jesus Christ, 56-58, 77
John, St, 77
Jung, C. G., and archetypal dreams,
Ka'ba, 28, 77, 78
Kant, Immanuel, 19
Kashani, 'Abdu '1-Razzaq, 74
Kharraz, Abu, Sa*id, 69
Kindi, -al, 35
Knowledge, of destiny, 50; doctrine
of> 34-3 8 78-79; through fana,
54; of Muslim philosophers, 17-
ao> 34-35; born with the soul, 35
Law, and evil, 46; synonym with
God, 29, 38; hidden from man,
50 ; inherent in all things, 38, 50,
Leonardo da Vinci, 36
Light, and Beatic Vision, 81; and
rational soul, 37; real and
painted, 20-2 1 ; as source of
knowledge, 36, 79
Logos, 17, 18; agent of God's con-
sciousness, 55; conceptions of, in
Christianity, 58; definitions of,
60; doctrine of, 54-60; and Light,
36; identical with Prophet Mu-
hammad, 56-58; as Reality of
Realities, 55; as Spirit of
Love, cannot be described, 54; and
God, 63-66; identical with God
of Christianity, 58; and Tar-
Lull, Ramon, 26
Manichaean, 15, 23
Mary, Mother of Jesus, 56
materia prima and materia secunda,
Mecca, 16, 56, 77, 87
Meria, al, 22
Moorish, Caliphate, 15; Empire, 16
Morality, and evil, 45 ; and free will,
51 ; God's indifference to, 46-47;
human attribute, 47 ; non-existent
spiritually, 47; qualitative not
quantitative, 47, 61 ; underlies
man's relationship with God, 48;
and world of appearance, 48
Morocco, 1 6
Moses, 77, 83
Muhammad, 27, 83; and the
Futufrat, 76-77; and the Perfect
Man, 56; relation of to Adam, 56
Muriasibi, -al, 61
Muslim philosophers, and creation,
29; and free will, 48; and hier-
archic system, 59; knowledge of,
17-20, 34-35, and the Legos, 55;
and a thing, 39
Names, divine, 30, 31, 33, 38, 39,
48, 60, 64, 71, 73
Neo-platonic, 17, 18, 23, 59
Nicholson, R. A., 7, 66, 68, 84
Nizam, 85, 87
Nondualism (and nonduality), 23,
24, 47, 62, 64
Non-existence, 39-40; of forms in
fana, 52, 53; synonym for evil,
Opposites, exist only in our minds,
43-44; united in God, 69
Origen, 1 7
Palacios, Miguel Asin, 7, 22, 26, 79
Pantheism, 23, 27
Perfection, must include imper-
fection, 45-46; man's ability to
recognize p., 47; of the world
and Logos, 55
Perfect Man, 55-60, 73
Plotinus, 17, 23, 32, 55
Psychology, modern, 35
Qushayri, al, 51
Seville, 15, x 6
Shamsu'ddin, 86, 87
Sha'rani, al, 25
Sin, 46-47, 52-53
Smith, Margaret, 78, 82
Soul, human, 32, 33; and dreams,
42; and heaven and hell, 62;
and knowledge, 35; and light,
37; subdivisions of, 33-34
Spain, 15, 1 6
Spirit, of Prophet Muhammad,
Style, of Ibn * Arabi, 24, 25, 85, 86
Suyutf, Jalalu '1-DIn, 25
Symbols, in dreams, 41-42; of hell,
62; in mystical language, 54
Syria, 15, 16
Tayy, tribe of, 15
Thing, the, 39-40
Thought, cannot exist without
Universal Reason, 36, 59
Universal Soul, 33, 41, 42
Universal Spirit, 18, 27
Utrillo, Maurice, 65
Zoroastrian, 15, 23
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